Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage … The Amazing Jack Z!

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I’m now fairly convinced that Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is some sort of magician.
In his first year on the job he overhauled Seattle’s defense, cut dead weight from the previous regime, brought in nice low-cost pickups, and watched the team go from 61-101 to 85-77.
Not satisfied with that 24-game improvement Zduriencik began his second offseason in Seattle by swinging a blockbuster for Cliff Lee, adding one of the elite pitchers in baseball to a rotation that was already headed by Felix Hernandez.
And now he’s somehow talked the Cubs into taking Carlos Silva in exchange for Milton Bradley.
To be clear, at this point Bradley ranks somewhere between “massive headache” and “team-wrecking insanity.” That and the $21 million he’s owed over the next two seasons obviously gave him negative trade value. In order to get rid of him the Cubs had to not only accept zero value in return for Bradley, but absorb a similarly horrible contract. And boy did they! Silva is owed $25 million over the next two seasons, of which the Mariners will reportedly cover only $9 million, and unlike Bradley he has close to zero on-field value.
Whatever you think about Bradley as a person and teammate he remains a talented player, and even in a career-worst mess of a season hit .257/.378/.397. The year prior he hit .321/.436/.563 to lead the AL in on-base percentage and OPS. Silva, on the other hand, logged a grand total of 30 innings (with a nifty 8.60 ERA) in 2009 after going 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in 2008. At best Silva is a fifth starter and at worst he should be at Triple-A. At best Bradley is among MLB’s better hitters and at worst he’s still a switch-hitting OBP threat.
Assuming that Bradley’s mere presence in Seattle won’t ruin everything that Zduriencik has accomplished in his first year-plus on the job the Mariners’ boss has just pulled off another brilliant move. Zduriencik ditched a nearly useless player owed $25 million for a perfectly useful player owed $22 million. And if Bradley proves too much of a hassle, the Mariners can always simply release him and get zero value for the money, which is exactly where they would’ve been with Silva anyway.
What will The Amazing Jack Z do for his next trick? It sounds like he’ll sign Franklin Gutierrez to a multi-year contract, keeping one of his finest pickups and one of MLB’s most underrated players in Seattle long term. And after that perhaps he’ll swap Brandon Morrow for another hitter, further boosting a lineup that ranked dead last in scoring despite the team’s overall success. At this point every fan should hope their favorite team isn’t on the other end of the phone calls shopping Morrow. Jack Z is pulling bunnies out of hats like crazy.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.