Jeff Passan is reporting that the Mariners have let go of Tony Blengino, who Jack Zduriencik brought over from Milwaukee following his hire. Blengino was a statistical mind, the analytical counter-part to Zduriencik's scouting background. He saw his role reduced before the 2013 season began, as he hasn't been working out of Seattle for a while now. The Mariners sent Blengino back to Milwaukee earlier this year, and he'd already shifted into an advisory role of sorts. Now the Mariners have just decided to cut bait completely.
Passan speculates that this means Zduriencik's job is a bit safer now, and I agree that it's the likely dot connecting sequence. Zduriencik surrounded himself with analytical minds when he came over - Blengino joined and had a major role, and Tom Tango was a consultant (since departed). Now the Mariners appear to fully be surrounded with scouting guys.
Dave Cameron had a fantastic look at this before the year started in 2013, pointing out the backgrounds of all of the new people that had joined the Mariners front office recently, and comparing them to those who had departed. The casualties are starting to stack up in Zduriencik's regime. Pro scouting director Carmen Fusco is gone, fired in 2010. Pedro Grifol, who was the M's minor league director until 2011, left last year. Bob Engle and Patrick Guerrero departed in 2012. Tom Tango is with the Cubs. Now, Tony Blengino is gone.
There's been a good amount of turnover in the Mariners front office over the last four years, and it seems like Tom McNamara is the last guy to survive from Z's initial batch of hirings and promotions. The Mariners clearly aren't paying much attention to advanced statistical theory any more, or they wouldn't have begun the year with Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Jason Bay all on the same roster, playing regularly.
What does it all mean? I don't have a secret line to the front office, but I agree with Passan's assessment that it's a sign Zduriencik is going to survive another offseason. Blengino was already being phased out, so this development likely doesn't change much. When Blengino was sent back to Milwaukee, it was clear that he wasn't going to be in Zduriencik's ear like he once was. For better or worse, this franchise is going to do things Zduriencik's way, whatever that is. Perhaps this is a promise to Chuck Armstrong that things are going to be different, now that the analytics are completely out of the way. Maybe it's a plea that he can finally see clearly now, and have an offseason without all the noise, or something. An admission of his mistakes. Sorry about Chone Figgins.
Doesn't it sound like silly speculation? It is. The results speak for themselves, and what the Mariners have done over the past year doesn't make them seem like an organization that looks at UZR, WAR, Pitch F/X, or much else advanced very closely any more. This isn't the organization that turned JJ Putz into a pot of gold anymore. This is the organization that traded John Jaso for Michael Morse.
The Mariners are an organization dedicated to the development of young talent. They've had tremendous success on the farm, but their approach has indisputably failed at the big league level. Now five years deep with a wealth of young cornerstones set in place, the team faces their biggest offseason yet, with people in charge who have made some fairly bad decisions over the past several years. What is probably the last connection to an analytic approach in the Mariners front office has now been severed. That's an uncomfortable reality.