Never one to tip his hand, general manager Jack Zudurienck said today he will try to compliment a young Seattle Mariners team with a bit more experience this off-season – and add a bat, if possible.
When Prince Fielder’s came up, the conversation turned intentionally vague.
“The years of the contract are factors, the dollars are a factor and where you stand as a club is a factor,” Zduriencik said of pursing a free agent.
What about his personal relationship with Fielder, a player he’s known since Fielder’s high school days?
“These things come down to what the best opportunity is for the player,” Zduriencik said. “It’s nice to have a relationship, and that might open the door. But we’re all adults – when a player earns free agency, that relationship probably becomes secondary.”
Zduriencik was asked if he viewed the Mariners differently today than a year ago, when he went to the winter meetings knowing 2011 was going to be a season of evaluation in Seattle.
“We’re still going to be young. We had 18 rookies on the roster at some point last year,” Zduriencik said. “We have to wait for some kids who are right around the corner.
“That said, we’d love to add a left-handed arm to the bullpen, a backup shortstop behind Brendan Ryan, and we could use a bat – no doubt – and another starting pitcher.”
As much as anything, the team needs ‘bounce back’ seasons from center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, first baseman Justin Smoak, Ryan and outfielder Casper Wells, all of whom battled injuries in 2011, Zduriencik said.
The Mariners head to the winter meetings next week without an offer on the table to any free agent but with plans to continue conversations with their representatives in Dallas.
As free agents sign – in Seattle or elsewhere – Zduriencik said the trade market figures to open up.
“You still have general managers looking at free agents, and everyone is gauging where they’re going,” he said. “But it’s like the deal we made Sunday (Josh Lueke for catcher John Jaso). There’s always the possibility the next phone call prompts something to happen.”