Mariners: masters at making trades

General Manager Jack Zduriencik is busy shoring up the middle of the team, once again impressing folks with his shrewd trades
General Manager Jack Zduriencik is busy shoring up the middle of the team, once again impressing folks with his shrewd trades

Evidently it isn'ꀙt true that Jack Zduriencik has acquired Manhattan Island for $24 worth of beads, trinkets and a minor-league player to be named later. On Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners' general manager dumped an unproductive infielder and a bust catcher prospect, acquiring a former all-star shortstop still in his prime and a promising starting pitcher. All this and get swapping partner Pittsburgh to pick up most of the new players'ꀙ salaries.

Uh, Jack, could you come with me the next time I go shopping at a car dealership? I'ꀙm thinking a new Lexus plus bonus cash for my daughter'ꀙs 'ꀙ94 Impreza.

All kidding aside, one hesitates to file stories about the M'ꀙs as they embark on a road trip to Texas and Kansas City. At any moment a message could pop up indicating that the club has acquired half a roster worth of wondrous additions, such is the deft method of the G.M. He also scuttled Wladimir Balentien, the under-achieving outfielder, getting Cincinnati to take Bad Wlad in trade for one Robert Manuel, who happened to be adjudged minor-league pitcher of the year by last year'ꀙs arbiters.

Remaining, of course, as the 53-48 club hustles to shrug off a recent four-game home losing streak, is the matter of Jarrod Washburn. The lefty may now be the major trophy remaining in negotiation prior to Friday'ꀙs trade deadline. Washburn was brilliant in another start for the M'ꀙs Tuesday, lowering his earned-run average to 2.64.

For now, fans await the debut of Jack Wilson, a 31-year-old shortstop with first-level defensive credentials and a .267 batting average with four home runs. The Pirates apparently are paying much of the remaining obligation toward Wilson'ꀙs current salary, and Zduriencik said at Safeco Wednesday he expects the M'ꀙs to pay the $8.4 million the infielder is owed in 2010. The Pittsburgh pitching acquisition, Ian Snell, has been in funks both on and off the field while in the majors but has registered a 0.96 E.R.A. in six starts at the triple-A level this season.

The G.M. reiterated Wednesday that a long-term goal is to shore up the Seattle club up the middle. To that end, he acquired emerging star center fielder Franklin Gutierrez to go with second baseman Jose Lopez, who had a home run, double, and single in Wednesday'ꀙs 3-2 victory. The win was secured when Ken Griffey Jr. doubled with the bases loaded during the seventh to give resurrected lefty Ryan Roland-Smith a deserved triumph after no-hitting the Toronto Blue Jays through six.

The M'ꀙs still need a catcher who can be productive at the plate. That puzzle piece could be minor-leaguer Adam Moore. It was supposed to be Jeff Clement, the apparent wunderkind drafted in 2005. Clement'ꀙs bad knees kept him from being an everyday catcher and he still hasn'ꀙt hit with the mastery imagined when he was a star at the University of Southern California. The Pirates plan to try him at first base. Pittsburgh also got Ronny Cedeno, the capable defensive shortstop who hadn'ꀙt managed a hit during his final 26 at-bats as an M.

For his swapping efforts, Zduriencik has received almost universal praise, even among the patently snarky blog geniuses. The Mariners seem to have a wealth of pitching talent now, meaning the loss of Washburn might not hurt that much even in the unlikely event that Seattle makes a late run at a pennant.

Meanwhile, as the trade deadline approaches on Friday, don'ꀙt be surprised if Smilin'ꀙ Jack manages a miracle deal. At Safeco Wednesday his pockets appeared to be stuffed, possibly with beads and trinkets.


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