KANSAS CITY -- The cloud of dust general manager Jack Zduriencik kicked up during a creative stretch leading up the non-waiver Trade Deadline has settled, but plenty of work remains before the Mariners can seriously challenge the Angels' grip on the AL West.
Two things that have happened since the All-Star break -- the Angels red hot and the Mariners cooled off -- further convinced the first-year GM that the best approach was to be a buyer
With the Angels cruising along with a 14-3 record since the Midsummer Classic, and the Mariners plodding along with a 8-9 mark, visions of baseball being played in Seattle well into October for the first time since 2001 have diminished.
"We are on the outside looking in at the pennant race and certainly have a ways to go to get back in this thing," Zduriencik said. "But we can look at Jack Wilson, Ian Snell and Luke French as three pieces that go into our Major League club. And we will have [Adrian] Beltre back [on Tuesday] and hopefully not long after that, we'll have Erik Bedard back. We'll see where that takes us." So where do the Mariners go from here? "I think we focus on getting the pitching in order," Zduriencik said. The starting rotation has been altered so much that ace right-hander Felix Hernandez is the only current starter that was in the rotation two weeks ago. "Are we a better team now than we were a week ago?," Zduriencik said. "We've certainly added pieces we like. To know, we'll have to see how those players compete next week." With the non-waiver Trade Deadline behind them, and the Angels holding a nine-game lead, the Mariners enter the next-to-last month of the regular season focused as much on the future as the present. The rules change a bit in August, but Zduriencik's game plan doesn't. Players he attempts to acquire or trade must now clear waivers. But that won't keep him from trying to make more moves to improve the club in both the short-term and the long-term.
The Road Ahead
|Home games remaining:||32|
|Road games remaining:||25|
|Games vs. teams over .500:||33|
|Key series:||vs. Angels, Aug. 31-Sept. 2|
|at Angels, Sept. 8-10|
|vs. Rangers Sept. 11-13|
He's not quite sure what kind of landscape he'll encounter going forward."I think this is a little new territory for everyone in baseball -- everyone in the country, for that matter -- because of where the economy is at," Zduriencik said. "It will be interesting to see what clubs attempt to do, whether block a trade, or acquire a player, and what the revenue is a particular club has to spend. None of us know that. I suspect it will be somewhat cautious, if you will, but clubs will retain some degree of activity." He didn't predict just how active the Mariners would be this month, but Zduriencik already has traded one potential free agent -- starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers for two left-handed pitchers, French and 20-year-old Mauricio Robles -- and has two more in Beltre and Bedard. Three if you count right-handed reliever Miguel Batista. Beltre, in the final year of his four-year, $54 million contract, returns to the lineup on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, where Seattle opens a three-game series against the Royals. He has completely recovered from left shoulder surgery to remove a bone spur that caused extreme pain for more than a month. How well he plays the next two or three weeks figures to determine whether any pennant contending team makes a pitch for him. The same goes for Bedard, who has been on the disabled list almost as much during his brief career with the Mariners as he has been on the active list. "You don't know what August will bring," Zduriencik said. "But that doesn't mean there won't be trades. There will be trades and we are going to do what we always do: when someone wants to talk, we'll listen."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.