Hours after firing general manager Jack Zduriencik the Mariners have demoted one of his worst draft picks, catcher Mike Zunino, to Triple-A.
It’s an unorthodox move, to say the least, because Zunino has been the Mariners’ starting catcher for the past two-and-a-half seasons and demoting him to Triple-A at a time when the minor-league season is essentially already over seems more punitive than anything else. After all, if the Mariners simply waited three days their roster would have expanded on September 1 and it’s not as if there’s any real time for Zunino to get work in at Triple-A.
With that said, he certainly earned the demotion had it come in, say, June or July. Zunino has hit .174 this season and .193 for his career, showing zero ability to control the strike zone with 339 strikeouts and 54 walks in 295 games. He has 20-homer power, but it’s added up to a .605 OPS for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
To replace Zunino on the roster the Mariners called up John Hicks, a 26-year-old career minor leaguer hitting .245 with six homers and a .645 OPS in 83 games at Triple-A. He’s a non-prospect having a poor season, which adds to the oddity of the Zunino demotion.
Pedro Martinez is whip smart when it comes to baseball, but we all have bad days I guess:
We’ve already talked a lot about team chemistry this week and it’s relative importance so I won’t rehash it all here. I will, however, default to Occam’s Razor and prefer the simplest explanation which explains a phenomenon over a more complex explanation. And in this case it goes like this:
- Robinson Cano has been far below his usual level of production for most of the year, Seattle has one of the worst offenses in the AL and, unlike the past couple of years, now has the fourth worst pitching staff in the AL in 2015;
- Justin Verlander was gone for the beginning of the season, sucked for a decent chunk in the middle and has only recently returned to form;
- Miguel Cabrera missed a month and a half on the DL and, even when he was there and was awesome, was not, unfortunately, a member of the Tigers awful bullpen and could not start games in place of the back end of the Tigers rotation which, for most of the year, has been a tire fire.
I will also note that, during my visits to Comerica Park over the summer, I specifically asked Justin Verlander, Gene Lamont, Al Kaline and some other Tigers about their clubhouse culture and the like. All of them, particularly Verlander, talked about how great a clubhouse it is, how supportive the veterans are of the kids and how, even when they were losing like they were then and even when trade rumors were swirling, everyone kept an even keel. And it was born out in their behavior too. Guys joked and laughed and played video games together and all of that. If there are chemistry issues in Detroit, they’re really, really well-hidden.
Chemistry is a thing. I’ve never argued that it’s not. But it’s not a big enough thing to cover for the aforementioned issues with the Mariners and Tigers, and it’s certainly not as clearly explanatory as those things are.
Star players can carry a crappy basketball team. They can’t carry a baseball team. Especially when the star players themselves do not perform like stars.
After being designated for assignment by the Mariners over the weekend, Fernando Rodney was acquired by the Cubs today for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
According to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com, Rodney is expected to be in the Cubs’ bullpen for the series opener against the Dodgers tomorrow night in Los Angeles.
Rodney previously pitched for Joe Maddon with the Rays in 2012 and 2013. The 38-year-old lost his closer job with Seattle this season, posting a 5.68 ERA and 43/25 K/BB ratio in 50 2/3 innings while blowing six out of his 22 save opportunities. He’s unlikely to be trusted in high-leverage late-inning situations down the stretch, but the Cubs want to see if there’s still anything left in the tank.