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MLB insider Jon Morosi: Mariners may have what Theo Epstein would want

Theo Epstein may like what the Mariners have to offer as they look for a new president. (Getty)

The Mariners are searching for a new team president and CEO after their last one, Kevin Mather, resigned due to his now infamous comments that he made while speaking to a local rotary club.

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During that 45-minute conversation, Mather made racially insensitive comments about current and former Latino and Japanese players, alluded to the Mariners manipulating service time with top prospect Jarred Kelenic and insulted many veteran players on the current roster.

Mather’s comments resulted in his resignation, and the Mariners, who said Mather’s comments were his own and don’t represent the organization, are now trying to mend potentially fractured relationships with the team’s players.

Because of Mather’s comments and the current state of the Mariners, who have missed the playoffs every year since 2001, there has been a lot of speculation about who the next hire will be. That includes whether that hire can be an inside hire or must come from outside the organization, as well as what the next team president and/or CEO must bring to the table.

A number of names have been floated around, most notably Theo Epstein, who won multiple World Series titles as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox and later as the president of the Chicago Cubs. He’s currently working in MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s office as a consultant for on-field issues.

Epstein may seem like a farfetched possibility for Seattle’s next team president at a glance, but MLB insider Jon Morosi of FOX Sports says that Epstein may actually be in play for the Mariners.

“It’s not a better than 50-50 chance,” Morosi said Wednesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy. “But I think this: First of all, as you know, Theo is currently with the commissioner’s office and doing a great job to help the people in the commissioner’s office think in depth about the state of the game … He is such a thoughtful person when it comes to making the game as diverse and inclusive as it can be, so I think his voice is very important there.”

But if Epstein wanted to get back to work with an MLB club, Morosi thinks the Mariners and Epstein may be a good match because of what Seattle has to offer.

“I also think that if you were to imagine a scenario in which Theo would be leaving the commissioner’s office and starting over, it would look a lot like what the Mariners look like,” Morosi said. “It would look like a team that hasn’t won in forever. It would look like a team that has a base of young talent like (prospects Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez and Logan Gilbert) to be involved in. It would be a very appealing world-class city, which Seattle is.”

Morosi said that the Mariners would also likely have to add Epstein to the team’s ownership group to get him on board, as owning a stake in a franchise is something Epstein has “hinted at in the past.”

“It would have to be a tremendous opportunity all the way around that involves some equity both emotionally and probably financially in the overall success in the enterprise,” Morosi said. “… While I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up here because I think we’re a long ways from this being a legitimate conversation, I do think the Mariners’ situation both because of the city, the drought in winning … those kinds of things I think would appeal to Theo in the same way that the Cubs did from a generational standpoint.”

Morosi thinks a hire like Epstein or someone else credible like former Chicago White Sox general manager and executive vice president Ken Williams or current Cleveland Indians president Chris Antonetti would go a long way in helping build a winning culture, which is something Morosi said hasn’t been the case for roughly 20 years.

“They have never been able to find it, and (Mather’s comments) should be a very clear indication to ownership that they have to find a winning culture, they have to develop it a lot better than they have because clearly the problem did not start with Mather’s comments, but they sort of illuminated what has been an issue,” he said. “And that’s why I think as they look at the potential hiring for the next president role, whenever that’s going to be, they need to make sure that they set the right tone with this person who comes in … It has to be somebody with a long track record in this game of winning and of developing a strong culture. This team needs culture, clearly.”

Looking forward to next offseason, the hire of the Mariners’ next president will be key because of free agency. Due to Mather’s comments, there’s been some worries that free agents may not want to come to the Mariners due to a belief that Mather’s views represent the organization. Morosi said that the next president has to be someone who can be a face of the franchise.

“When that plane lands and the door of that player’s house opens and the family is there to meet the Mariners, who do you want to be the first person that steps through the door?” Morosi said. “I think we would say Theo would be a wonderful person to have be that person, but he’s not the only great person who can set a culture. I think there’s a tremendous amount of men and women across the game who’d be a wonderful person to step through that door. But they have to make sure as John Stanton thinks about this, that his team is going to be judged on the first person who steps through that door. Who is that person going to be, and what are they going to say about the culture they’re trying to develop in Seattle?”

Morosi added that Seattle’s location in the Pacific Northwest, which results in more travel annually than any other team in baseball because of how far away it is from its closest competitors, may deter free agents from wanting to play for the Mariners, so a top-notch president like Epstein would go a long way in making that a non-issue.

“The way that you might override the distance is again, here’s the roster we’re selling, here’s the culture we have, here’s the manager that you’re going to love playing for and here’s who we are as a team,” Morosi said. “And I think clearly Kevin Mather didn’t stand for the right things and they have to find somebody who does.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.

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