The Seattle Mariners announced Friday that general manager Jack Zduriencik has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately, with assistant GM Jeff Kingston assuming his responsibilities in the interim. Kingston is expected to act as the GM at least through the end of the season.
While team president Kevin Mather commended Zduriencik as "an excellent representative of the Mariners" in Seattle's official press release, his successes with big-name players Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and Hisashi Iwakuma have been largely overshadowed by major concerns over scouting and continued disappointment in the face of vaunted expectations.
The Mariners hired Zduriencik in 2008, and virtually none of the organization's first-round draft picks have panned out since. Neither Dustin Ackley (No. 2) nor Nick Franklin (No. 27) from the first round of the 2009 draft are still with the Mariners, and Steven Baron (No. 33) of that same year has spent his whole career in the minors. Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, hasn't pitched anything close to a complete season in the minors since 2012 thanks to injury. Mike Zunino, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, is one of the few touted Mariners prospects to see playing time in the majors, but he's batted just .193/.252/.353 as a big leaguer.
Every organization whiffs on promising draft picks who either succumb to injury or otherwise bust, but the Mariners' graveyard of broken talent in recent years has raised legitimate questions about Seattle's farm system and its development of young players.
Zduriencik has also struggled to build a productive lineup in his seven-year tenure as GM. Outfielder Nelson Cruz is having a career year, but the Mariners still rank 24th in runs scored this season. Under Zduriencik, Seattle has never ranked better than 19th in the majors in runs scored. Statistically, Seattle still has a minute chance of reaching the playoffs, but in all likelihood, the end of the 2015 season will mark the 14th straight year that Seattle has failed to advance to the postseason.
Seattle's split from Zduriencik was a move many saw as necessary, if not impending.
Here are a few other rumors making their way around the league today:
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs announced on Thursday that they've acquired reliever Fernando Rodney from the Mariners. The Cubs have agreed to cash considerations or a player to be named later in exchange for the right-hander. Rodney served as the Mariners' closer during the 2014 season and parts of this season, but he's struggled royally in 2015. His 5.68 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 are among the worst numbers of his career, so why is Cubs manager Joe Maddon so convinced Rodney can bounce back? It seems as though Maddon hasn't yet forgotten how well Rodney played under him while he managed the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon told reporters on Thursday, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, "I've been around Fernando. I was there [in 2012] when he had the best in history . . . a .60 ERA. He's got the kind of stuff to get out both righties and lefties. I know he had trouble a bit this year, but . . . We'll see when we get him down here, get him in a game. He still has the good fastball, outstanding changeup, and he's a great teammate." Lefty Zac Rosscup has been sent down to Triple-A to make room in the roster, and Brian Schlitter has also been designated for assignment.
CC Sabathia: The New York Yankees received positive news Tuesday when Sabathia elected not to have immediate surgery on his sore right knee. Following his removal from Sunday's game, Sabathia feared the possibility of a career-threatening microfracture surgery on his knee, writes George A. King of the New York Post. After encouraging medical news, however, Sabathia has ruled out surgery and is open to a bullpen role for the remainder of the season if his rehab progresses smoothly. It was no doubt a sigh of relief for Sabathia and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch among others on Monday that Sabathia would very possibly be unable to pitch for the rest of the season. Sabathia's injury coincides with the return of Michael Pineda, who had been on the disabled list since July 30.
Denard Span: The Nationals center fielder was back on the disabled list on Thursday with inflammation in his left hip. There was talk that this trip to the DL would bring Span's season to a close and indeed, according to a tweet from MLB.com's Bill Ladson, Span is set to undergo season-ending surgery on his hip next Tuesday. Span has been excellent this season, but this marks his third round on the disabled list this year, and his production has been limited to only 61 games. Span's injury-riddled year is likely to take a toll in the offseason, as he'll be a free agent at season's end.