Jack Zduriencik saved his team a minimum of $5 million Friday and moved shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt in the process – a win-win decision by the Seattle Mariners general manager.
Yuni was no longer part of the future here, although he was under contract through 2011 at a cost of about $10 million.
Yes, the Mariners had to eat a big bite of that in sending Betancourt to Kansas City with between $3-$4 million, but the savings might just motivate ownership to allow Zduriencik to add salary this year.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t the only deal in the works. The minor league pitchers the Mariners got? That’s nice. But Jack Z. is looking at helping Seattle this season.
Moving Yuni did that in two ways: It got him out of the clubhouse and off the field where he had driven teammates, coaches and manager Don Wakamatsu crazy – and it saved money.
It almost certainly won’t be the last deal the team makes this month, or perhaps even this week.
How fed up were the Mariners with Betancourt? It was made clear the team didn’t want him at shortstop in 2010, but that was the tip of this Yuni iceberg.
In Baltimore not long ago, I wanted to interview Betancourt, and there was no translator on the road with the team.
I asked Adrian Beltre if he’d translate for me. He said no. I asked Jose Lopez. He said no. Finally, Guillermo Quiroz did the honors.
The point is, Yuni’s teammates had had it with him, with the excuses and the lack of focus on team.
After Wakamatsu benched Yuni last month – for not working hard enough before games – the shortstop spent three consecutive days standing alone in the outfield during batting practice.
He didn’t take one ground ball. He didn’t take one swing.
He lost those teammates who had been in his corner – or tried to be – over the years.
There was a message sent to the Mariners with this trade. Not only did Zduriencik back his manager, he showed the team that it could count on him to take care of problems once players found them unresolveable in the clubhouse.
Yuni’s smile and personality will be missed. His game will not be.