Jack Z as Strategic Negotiator



== An “area of emphasis” on the annual employee review ==

I want to clarify that when I criticize Jack Zduriencik as a strategic negotiator, I am not indicating that I view him as incompetent or not qualified for his job.

I believe that he is a scout at heart, and that is his area of expertise.  Indeed, I believe that only Felix, Michael Saunders, Brandon Maurer and Nate Tenbrink are holdovers from the Bavasi era.  Maybe a couple more.  But every other player in the organization was brought in under Z.

And the organization, although not where we wish it would be, is healthy.  The Big Club  is competitive and the pipeline of talent is enviable.

Moreover, I think that many (though by no means all) of the mistakes were made during the period in which Tony Blengino was the top advisor.

Regardless, if the major part of the job is being the top talent evaluator, well … you can’t contend that this organization was put together by incompetent talent evaluators.  Maybe not the best in the business, but not incompetent.


But trades involve more than just evaluating the talent involved.  There are negotiations.  A “deal” must be made.

Negotiation is a skill, and not everyone is equally talented at it.  Here it seems Jack is lacking.

I am not a master negotiator myself, but I have worked with and under a senior person for many, many years who is paid to “make deals.”  Plus, I have taken a seminar or two on negotiation techniques.

My criticisms would be these:

  • You gotta have a strategy.  Preparation.  Knowledge is power.  Z seems to go in ad hoc.  I do understand part of this.  There are 29 other teams, so might not know at any given moment who will be on the other side.  But once you’re talking about, say, David Price, then get your plan for how you will go about getting the best outcome from your negotiations about David Price.  But don’t dabble.  You don’t paint a house by doing a little bit of one side one day and then a little bit under the windows on the other side another day and then a little bit on a different side a different day.  Just paint the house, or leave it the same color.
  • “Plan B” is just as important.  You have no leverage with the other side unless you have the ability to convince them that you will do something else and be just as happy.  Otherwise they will just wait you out, and make you negotiate with yourself until you meet their demands (at least if they’re smart).  It’s laudable that Jack never seems overeager for a deal, but his fallback position always seems be “standing pat.”  Well, the other 29 teams are onto that.  When you’re trying to upgrade an offense that is millstone dragging down an otherwise-contending team, no one is believing that you’ll be happy to keep Nick Franklin in AAA and keep playing Endy Chavez.  And everyone is so tired of “the higher-ups won’t give me the flexibility” that the “higher-up” himself, Kevin Mather, came out and more-or-less said it was all a tired negotiation ploy.

In other words, Jack’s “Plan B” is not plausible, and so it doesn’t get him any leverage.  But he seems to think it does, and that’s the source of some of the derision from other clubs that you saw in the recent media.

All of which doesn’t mean that he won’t make deals or that all his deals will be bad.  Just that it’s not an area in which he excels. He doesn’t seem to quite have the hang of it.

That being said, the negotiation aspect is only one part of trading, and trading is only one part of being a General Manager.  But it does make late July somewhat more nerve-wracking than it might be.



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