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SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired cash considerations from the Cubs in exchange for RHP Fernando Rodney. [8/27]
Fired GM Jack Zduriencik; optioned C-R Mike Zunino to Triple-A Tacoma; recalled C-R John Hicks from Triple-A Tacoma. [8/28]

Can a dismissal feel inevitable and still come as a surprise? Zduriencik’s qualifies on both counts. Though the Mariners experienced as many off-thefield controversies under Zduriencik as winning seasons, and though he hired three managers and repeatedly failed to turn the Mariners into a scouting-and-player-development machine, his reign nonetheless lasted nearly seven years. It was nearing the point where you wondered just what would get Zduriencik fired, or, rather, if his departure from Seattle would instead come from his own doing.

Of course, in many ways, Zduriencik did craft and initial his own pink slip. He earned a reputation as a scouting savant through his skillful drafts in Milwaukee, but that reputation failed to actualize in Seattle. Zduriencik made eight first-round selections with the Mariners, including five in the top 15 and three in the top five, and consistently came up empty. If it’s not bad enough that Taijuan Walker is the only one of those eight first-rounders on the M’s 25-man roster, then consider how Zunino represents their best chance of milking production from their trio of top-five picks: Dustin Ackley is a Yankee as of the trade deadline and Danny Hultzen is an increasingly lost cause, albeit due to injuries rather than performance. Oh, and while Mariners fans have plenty of recent fodder for the what-if game, consider how Zduriencik’s decision to sign Josh Fields before the 2009 draft came at the cost of the 21st pick—a spot that, if only in theory and hindsight, could have been used to select Mike Trout.

Zduriencik’s failures as a talent evaluator included numerous botched trades, too. To quote a Mike Axisa tweet from last October: “[The Mariners have] traded Cliff Lee, Doug Fister, and Michael Pineda in the span of ~18 months and all they have to show for it right now is Charlie Furbush.” Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak were supposed to blossom into middle-of-the-order forces. Instead, Montero is on the outs and Smoak is in Toronto. Obviously the scouting and development staffs deserve blame as well, but Jonah Keri summed it up well earlier this month when he wrote, “In the end, the burden of acquiring all of those incapable young players falls on the men at the top of the organizational ladder.”

The burden of having acquired all those incapable young players will also fall on the next general manager. Whoever that is will have limited roster-building options as a result of the Mariners featuring the worst combination possible: an underachieving big-league roster, a bloated payroll, a weak farm system, and an impatient ownership group. Even if the fat cats okay the Mariners maintaining a payroll in the $120 million range, close to 60 percent of that is already promised to four players. Additionally, with the Mariners suffering through eight losing efforts in their past 11 tries (soon to be nine in 12), it’s unlikely that the higher-ups would embrace the internet’s favorite strategy: a long-term rebuild/tank job. As such, Zduriencik’s successor will need to be creative to turn the ship around in a timely manner.

Whether that’s a realistic proposition or not, well … there’s plenty of time to discuss that later. For now, the Mariners need to figure out just how the Zduriencik era went bad, and why it took them so long to end it. —R.J. Anderson

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Acquired RHPs Matt Koch and Miller Diaz from the Mets in exchange for RHP Addison Reed. [8/29]

Despite being one of the more prolific relievers in the NCAA during his time at Louisville, the Mets believed that Koch has the arsenal to become a starter pitcher. After struggling as a starter for the better part of three seasons, New York decided to move him back to the bullpen, and the stuff showed enough of an uptick that the Mets … decided to make him a starter again. The results have been mixed.

Koch’s fastball is above-average as a starter, but in shorter stints he can get it up to 96 with movement, making it a plus pitch. He’ll also show a solid-average slider with late bite, and a change that doesn’t offer much in terms of movement but does have some deception from his quick arm. He throws strikes with all three pitches, though the command is a good step behind the control. If the Diamondbacks decide to move Koch to the bullpen, he’s a potential late-inning arm, with no. 5 starter or swingman his likely landing spot if Arizona prefers him throwing more pitches.

Diaz had been with the Mets since 2009, and though there have been moments where the right-hander has looked like a potential starter, those have been fleeting, particularly in 2015. The fastball is 90-93 with the occasional uptick into the mid-90s, but his command is below-average, as are the breaking ball and changeup. He looks like organizational filler at this point, though because of his arm strength it would be interesting to see if the stuff plays up in shorter spurts out of the bullpen. —Christopher Crawford

CHICAGO CUBS
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Acquired RHP Fernando Rodney from the Mariners in exchange for cash considerations. [8/27]

The Cubs have again reached into Joe Maddon’s past to find a present-day bullpen fix, as they did with Rafael Soriano, and as they supposedly tried to do earlier in the season with Grant Balfour, Brad Boxberger, and Jake McGee. Rodney lost his closer’s gig and roster spot in Seattle after struggling throughout the year with the location and consistency of his stuff. He’s since blamed his sporadic usage, but that’s a hard one to figure. Rodney’s appearances total is closing in on the mark he put up in 2014, when, ostensibly, he received enough work in his opinion, and he’s been used on zero days’ rest almost as often as well. Whatever the actual cause of Rodney’s demise, he would, in theory, be eligible for the Cubs’ postseason roster if he can return in the coming weeks to the straight and narrow path. Otherwise, maybe the Cubs can convince Troy Percival to gut out a few appearances. —R.J. Anderson

NEW YORK METS
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Acquired RHP Addison Reed from the Diamondbacks in exchange for RHPs Matt Koch and Miller Diaz. [8/29]

For what seems like the umpteenth time since July, the Mets make an upgrade to their roster.

The size of the upgrade depends on which version of Reed shows up over the next month-plus. Last season, he compiled a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio, but nobody talked about that accomplishment due to his bloated home run rate (nearly two per nine innings). This season, Reed has spent time in the minors, and has been a different pitcher during his big-league stints. His strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t as good as it was in 2014, yet he’s atoned for that dip by reducing his home run rate and posting a would-be career-high ground-ball percentage; sense the Dave Duncan influence?

Which version of Reed will show up in New York? The Mets are probably hoping for the latest one, the one who has thrown 16 good innings since his late-July recall, along the way notching 11 more strikeouts than walks and yielding no home runs. If that Reed comes to town—meaning if he continues throwing his low-to-mid-90s fastball for strikes and generating grounders and whiffs with his slider—then he could step in as the designated seventh-inning man, thereby closing the gap between the Mets’ starters and their high-leverage duo of Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia.

And if that Reed doesn’t come to New York, then at least his stay is certain to be short. Though the Mets could control Reed for an additional two seasons, his rising cost (he would make more than $5 million in 2016) makes it more likely that he won’t be tendered a contract. —R.J. Anderson

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sam19041
8/31
RJ, loved the quip about Troy Percival. Well played.