By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
NASHVILLE — Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was clearly miffed by the characterization.
A national baseball writer had written that executives from opposing teams have labeled the Mariners “desperate” to acquire hitting.
Zduriencik shook his head at the assertion. “That would be ludicrous to say we are desperate,” He said Tuesday at baseball’s winter meetings.
“To say we would like to have a hitter, of course we would. I’ve been pretty public. I don’t think I’ve hid that all. We were last in the league in hitting, so why wouldn’t you want to add a hitter. But to say we are desperate?”
Of course, the Mariners have been linked to more than 20 different hitters by either free agency or trade during the past few days. The running joke is that as a hitter, if you haven’t been contacted by the Mariners, you are either insulted or not very good.
On Tuesday, Arizona outfielder/first baseman Jason Kubel and Atlanta free agent center fielder Michael Bourn were the latest to emerge as hitters who might interest the Mariners. Others previously mentioned include Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, Yankees outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton and Royals outfielder Billy Butler.
Kubel bit .251 with 30 doubles and 30 homers and 90 RBI this past season with Arizona. The Mariners would have to trade for Kubel. They’ve already been inquiring about Arizona outfielder Justin Upton, getting Kubel would be a less-expensive consolation prize.
Zduriencik met with Bourn’s agent Scott Boras on Tuesday. Bourn, however, doesn’t fit the profile of what the Mariners have been looking for. He’s a lead-off hitter that hit .274 with nine homers and 57 RBI. He had a .348 on-base percentage and stole 42 bases last season.
Bourn isn’t considered a major target for the Mariners. The meeting was more of Zduriencik’s due diligence as he looks at all possibilities.
It appears free-agent hitters are all waiting for Hamilton to sign and for the dominoes to fall after that first signing — as it usually happens in offseason.
“There are some teams waiting on that big chip,” Zduriencik said. “And some teams are waiting for that chip to fall.”
Zduriencik is trying to maintain patience, and the Mariners are one of those teams who are waiting. They’ve met with Hamilton. They’ve talked to Swisher’s representation.
If there’s a stigma of desperation, Zduriencik seems intent on changing it, so agents or opposing teams don’t get the idea they can fleece him or the Mariners in a possible deal.
“I’m not going to do something foolish in my estimation,” he said. “If someone is sitting there saying, ‘I’m going to get an extra player from them ‘cause they’re desperate,’ then they’re foolish. I’m not doing that. We have some pretty young talented players. Yes, I’d like to add a bat. There’s no question, but there’s a cost and a risk.”
So what’s an example of a desperation move? Well, former general manager Bill Bavasi giving up five players, including Adam Jones for a moody, oft-injured pitcher named Erik Bedard.
Don’t expect a move like that to happen with Zduriencik.
“I can assure you this: we are not making a decision out of desperation,” Zduriencik said. “There are some nice pieces in the organization and none of them are going to be moved out of desperation.”
But what about the need to add a bat?
“If we walk away from here and we … appear to have done nothing, quite frankly we did something — we’ve held onto our commodities,” Zduriencik said. “And we will continue the plan. I hope we can do something here. Maybe it happens a week from now or a month from now. If it doesn’t happen then, maybe it happens in spring training.”