SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners fired general manager Jack Zduriencik on Friday after seven disappointing seasons during which the club failed to end its playoff drought.
Team President Kevin Mather announced the decision to fire Zduriencik, with assistant general manager Jeff Kingston taking over on an interim basis. Kingston joined the Mariners front office in 2009 after spending seven years as the director of baseball operations with San Diego.
Mather said he would like to find an experienced GM and have one in place soon after the regular season concludes so as to not lose out on the upcoming offseason.
“I think we have the nucleus of a very good baseball team. The nucleus of this team should bode well for candidates,” Mather said on a conference call.
Zduriencik came to Seattle before the 2009 season, arriving from Milwaukee as one of the top talent evaluators in baseball and with the task of rebuilding a thin farm system while putting a winning product on the field at the major league level.
But Seattle missed too often both in player development through the draft and in free agency under Zduriencik’s watch.
Mather said he kept waiting for this year’s team to overcome its early slumps and rally its way back into contention. He said the optimism caused him to “drag my feet” and wait too long on re-examining the state of the organization under Zduriencik.
Only one player drafted during Zduriencik’s tenure has developed into an All-Star: third baseman Kyle Seager. Three times Seattle had top-five draft selections with Zdureincik in charge, but none of those players — Danny Hultzen, Dustin Ackley and Mike Zunino — developed into solid contributors in the majors.
Seattle did land Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz in free agency the past two seasons, but Zduriencik’s misses with the likes of Chone Figgins, and trades that backfired — Cliff Lee, Jesus Montero and Milton Bradley among others — created even more discontent among fans.
Seattle had just two winning seasons during Zduriencik’s tenure. The Mariners entered this season expected to end a playoff drought that extends to 2001, but instead the club has floundered and began Friday 10 games under .500 and 12 games behind Houston in the AL West.
Zduriencik was given a contract extension last August after Seattle was in the playoff chase until the final day. But the optimism of last season quickly faded in 2015. Mather said the decision wasn’t solely based around the struggles of this year, but how he projected the club going forward.
“(This season) at the major league level has been a disappointment which caused me to pause, re-examine, and say, ‘Do we have the right architect, right leader to do this?’ So that was the change,” Mather told reporters in Chicago.
There was also a lack of continuity between Zduriencik and his managers. Zduriencik hired Don Wakamatsu as his first manager in 2009, but he was fired during the 2010 season. Eric Wedge was hired before the 2011 season, but chose not to return after the 2013 season in part because of issues with the front office.
Current manager Lloyd McClendon is under contract through 2016. Mather said he will encourage keeping McClendon but that it will be up to the next GM to decide who Seattle’s field manager will be in 2016.
“I want to thank Jack for his loyalty and hard work over the years, and for the quiet dignity with which he has carried himself,” Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said in a statement.