Mariners sign GM Jack Zduriencik to multi-year extension

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According to Shannon Drayer of ESPN 710 AM in Seattle, the Mariners have signed general manager Jack Zduriencik to a multi-year contract extension.

The Mariners finished 40 games under .500 last season and sit 20 games under .500 here in 2011, but Zduriencik is widely regarded as one of baseball’s most forward-thinking executives and Seattle’s higher-ups clearly have confidence that he’s leading the youth-heavy club in the right direction.

Zduriencik — or “Jack Z” if you’re not big on spelling things out — began his professional baseball career back in 1973 as a player with the White Sox’s affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. He never made it to the major leagues and eventually moved into an off-field role, serving as an area scout for the Mets from 1983-1989.

Zduriencik bounced around in the 90s before latching on as the Brewers’ director of scouting near the end of the decade. That gig led to a front office job with Milwaukee in 2006, and in October 2008 the Mariners made him their general manager and executive vice president of baseball operations. Now he’ll remain in that role for another several seasons, and will look to bring winning baseball back to the Great Northwest.

Zduriencik has misfired on some deals, namely the Chone Figgins free-agent signing, but he has a knack for scouting and player evaluation, and would seem to be the right fit going forward for the rebuilding M’s.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.