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The difficulties facing the future Mariners GM

The next GM of the Mariners will have a tough time undoing the damage that Jack Zduriencik caused.

Once news broke that Jack Zduriencik had been fired by the Mariners, the media began speculating on who his replacement would be. Kenny Williams, Kevin Towers, and Dan O'Dowd have all been mentioned as potential solutions, but the Mariners don't appear to be close on officially naming Zduriencik's successor. While there doesn't seem to be a favorite, Jon Heyman doesn't think they'll have any trouble finding someone.

Realistically, any GM opening is going to create a lot of interest in the industry. It's potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity, and there are only 30 of these positions available. While Heyman thinks that there will be more than a few suitors waiting to take over the Mariners, their future GM will have a tough road ahead for a couple reasons; the first of which is their payroll situation.

In 2015, Seattle had an opening day payroll of $119.7 million. The Mariners have always been a middle of the pack team in terms of money committed, and barring any drastic changes in ownership, that's likely to continue. Unfortunately for their new GM, he or she won't have much money to play with, as Zduriencik has spent quite a bit of their future payroll.

2016 2017 2018 2019
Felix Hernandez $25,857,142 $26,857,142 $26,857,142 $27,857,142
Robinson Cano $24,000,000 $24,000,000 $24,000,000 $24,000,000
Nelson Cruz $14,250,000 $14,250,000 $14,250,000 -
Kyle Seager $8,000,000 $11,000,000 $19,000,000 $19,500,000
Total $72,107,142 $76,107,142 $84,107,142 $71,357,142

Perhaps the most important factor for Seattle's future success, isn't who they hire as GM, but rather the performance of Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, who are signed through the 2019 and 2023 seasons, respectively. While Hernandez has still pitched better than the average major league pitcher, his K/9 and BB/9 have regressed, and his ERA and FIP have ballooned to 3.66 and 3.58; both of which represent his highest values since 2008.

Cano has also been disappointing, as his wRC+ has plummeted by 19 percent, and his wOBA by 10.2 percent. Hopefully for the Mariners, 2016 and beyond will see their production levels return to what we've come to expect, but that might be unrealistic given their respective ages. Even if that does happen, their new GM will have to work around their cumbersome salaries, as the Mariners will pay Hernandez and Cano at least $49 million through 2019.

Adding Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager to the equation inflates their money committed to $72 million in 2016, with the dollar amount rising to $84 million in 2018. Unfortunately for their future GM, Zduriencik spent quite a bit of money on aging players (Seager excluded), which could hamper their efforts to build a contender in the next few seasons.

While it's not impossible for a team to put together a winning season even with vast amounts of money already spent, it generally helps to have a strong farm; which the Mariners do not have. According to Baseball America, Seattle has the 25th worst minor league system.

"Seattle has graduated several key prospects in recent years, sapping some depth, and the organization's famed international program has become less productive in recent years. Seattle has invested heavily on power-hitting outfielders, from 2014 first-rounder Alex Jackson and second-rounder Gareth Morgan and 2013 second-rounder Austin Wilson to international products such as Canadian OF Tyler O'Neil and Dominican Gabby Guerrero."

The Mariners don't have many prospects that they can call upon to provide value at the major league level, and since Baseball America released their rankings, several prospects have taken a step back. Alex Jackson, D.J. Peterson, and Austin Wilson have all struggled mightily since being promoted to various levels, and their 7th ranked prospect, Gabby Guerrero, was traded to the Diamondbacks in the deal to acquire Mark Trumbo.

With at least $71 million committed for the next four seasons, and an incredibly thin farm system, the next GM of the Mariners will have to work around several hurdles. If he or she can't figure out a viable way to put together a sustainable winner now, Seattle fans might have to endure another rebuilding effort while they acquire young talent for the future.