Bob Engle has long been the Mariners' vice president of international operations, and in 2011 he was honored as Major League Baseball's Scout of the Year. In his writeup about Engle winning the award, Greg Johns concluded:
But with Engle, the Mariners certainly have a leader in the international scouting world. And that doesn't figure to change.
Less than a year later, things are changing. Larry Stone:
Bob Engle, the Mariners' vice president of international operations and the man responsible for signing Felix Hernandez, among numerous others, is leaving the organization.
The circumstances surrounding Engle's departure are unclear. The Mariners offered Engle a new contract, but Engle wouldn't sign it, and he isn't opting to go straight into retirement. Instead, he's going to take some time to think about whether he wants to remain in the game, implying that something happened here that caused Engle to want to leave. An interesting and potentially illuminating quote from Stone's post:
"Sometimes, organizations want to change or re-align. Perhaps it was time for them. It's a perfect time to step back and step away for a little."
Shortly after news broke that Engle was leaving, news broke that Engle's "right-hand man" Patrick Guerrero had been fired. Guerrero was the Mariners' Latin American coordinator, and he was kind of a big deal, and he was fired not by Engle but by somebody above Engle, which Baseball America says to be rare. You can try to search for more details but at present you're not going to find them. We don't know why Guerrero was fired, we don't know why Engle is leaving, and none of the parties involved seem like they're going to talk. This is just a shake-up for which we weren't prepared.
Engle's is the name with which Mariners fans will connect more. While Guerrero had a role in the Mariners signing Michael Pineda, Engle had a role in the Mariners signing Felix Hernandez, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Lopez, and many others. The Mariners were a hyper-aggressive and hyper-successful organization in other countries under Engle's watch, and put in the simplest of ways, his loss certainly seems like more of a bad thing than a good thing. For anyone who's panicking, though, it is worth remembering that this isn't all about one or two scouts. Several people were involved in the Felix Hernandez situation, from seeing him first to getting him signed. Engle played a prominent role, but so did others, and the organization's international scouting department isn't about to collapse.
We also don't know how effective Engle might've been given the new spending restrictions in the CBA. Developing personal relationships with potential signees is of crucial importance and it seems like Engle and his staff were good at that, but it's a more even playing field now than it used to be. Most teams are mostly everywhere, and now most teams will be spending more or less the same amount. It seems like it'll be more challenging to excel, as the Mariners used to do.
So we don't know how significant a loss this actually is. A pair of losses, I guess I should say, although when I began this post I only knew about Engle. What we ultimately care about is the effect on the Mariners' win total and we don't know if this will ever have any such effect. But given what I know, given a choice between having Engle and Guerrero and not having Engle and Guerrero, I think I'd rather have Engle and Guerrero. They proved themselves and many people have spoken highly of them in the past.
If the Mariners are changing, maybe they'll bring in people just as good, or even better. None of us could possibly know anything in that regard. What's probably most interesting here isn't what's happened, but why it's happened. Why are the Mariners, Engle, and Guerrero all going their separate ways? We don't know, and we might never know, but it does make you wonder. And with the Mariners, when you wonder, you tend to wonder with cynicism.