In his tenure with the Milwaukee Brewers, Jack Zduriencik greatly influenced the talent in the organization's farm system. In his time, the Brewers had frequent success in the draft. Players taken under Zduriencik were Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun, just to name a few. While drafting is an important part of baseball, it becomes even more important in a small market like Milwaukee.
Because of his success, Zduriencik was a candidate for just about every General Manager job when they opened. In 2007, Zduriencik interviewed for a vacancy in Pittsburgh, only to passed over once again. Needless to say, Zduriencik's misfortune was the Brewers relief. However, luck had to run out eventually.
The next season, Zduriencik accepted the GM spot for the Seattle Mariners. Zduriencik wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but after Doug Melvin signed another extension with the Brewers, he realized his time was not coming in Milwaukee. Instead, Zduriencik accepted the tough job of turning around the 101-loss Mariners. Well, at least it was supposed to be tough.
In his first season with the Mariners, Jack Z has completely turned the franchise around. He has built the club perfectly around his surrounding in Safeco Field. The large gaps of Safeco require a good defense and that's exactly what Jack Z has created. Almost immediately after he took over, Zduriencik traded for one of the best defenders in baseball history: Franklin Gutierrez. Literally, Gutierrez has unlimited range. His UZR/150 ratings are unfathomable. Last season, Gutierrez posted a 30.9 UZR/150. In easier terms, Gutierrez' defense saved the Mariners one run ever 47 innings he played in the field. Those numbers are simply incredible.
Zduriencik didn't stop there. He also traded for slick fielding SS Jack Wilson from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wilson, while often criticized for his bat, is another great defender. Combined between Pittsburgh and Seattle last season, Wilson posted a 20.4 UZR/150 while playing SS.
Acquiring this kind of team lead to the Mariners scoring an incredible 12.0 UZR/150 as a team last season, easily best in baseball. Despite scoring just 640 runs last season (3rd worst in baseball), the Mariners won 85 games. Their combination of pitching and defense allows them to compete without raking the ball.
This offseason, Zduriencik has only improved the club. He is nearing completion of a trade that would send Carlos Silva (and his $24 million contract) to Chicago in exchange for Milton Bradley. If completed, this is an absolute steal for the Mariners. While his ERA seems a little inflated, Silva is still one of the worst pitchers in baseball right now. Bradley surely brings attitude problems to Seattle, but also immense talent. An outfielder of Ichiro, Gutierrez and Bradley would save an incredible amount of runs. Also, Bradley's bat fits perfectly into the middle of the Mariners order. Add in the signing of Chone Figgins and the acquisition of Cliff Lee and the Mariners are set for success next season.
It's tough to say I fault Milwaukee in all this. Doug Melvin has done a pretty decent job as GM of the Brewers. While Zduriencik might have been the better option, letting Melvin go wasn't going to happen. Nevertheless, I have to say what Zduriencik has done in one season is pretty incredible. He took a 101-loss franchise and has turned it into a championship contender. Too bad he wasn't overlooked, again.