Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik just completed a conference call with reporters to discuss the hiring of two new coaches, Ty Van Burkleo as bench coach and ex-Mariner Lee Tinsley as first-base coach, and the decision to offer arbitration to outfielder Raul Ibanez. Then the questioning swung to free agency.
More precisely, it turned to free agent Ken Griffey Jr. Have the Mariners spoken with Griffey’s agent? And are they interested? Here’s what Zduriencik said.
“Have I had discussions with Ken Griffey’s agent? Yes. Have we talked about some possibilities with him.? We have. Is there anything concerete? Is there an offer made? No.”
Asked how serious the talks have been, Zduriencik described them as “an inquiry more than anything else. It isn’t anything more than that at this point.
“The conversation was a very cordial conversation that his agent and I had. His agent had called here on a few occasions wanting to talk about Ken.
Is he the same player he was? At one point in time he was the best player in the game.
“Do we have interest in Ken Griffey? I’m not sure I’m prepared to answer that. I should know more in a week to 10 days.”
Zduriencik said he has one offer out to a free-agent position player and should have an answer in 24-48 hours. It’s safe to guess it won’t be Manny Ramirez.
As for Griffey, it’s likely that Zduriencik and Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, will get together next week at the winter meetings in Las Vegas to see just how serious each is about the other.
It’s doubtful the Mariners would be interested in a longterm contract with Griffey because their main goal is to build a club with young talent. However, they’ll probably need two new outfielders for 2009 (assuming Ibanez signs elsewhere) and a DH.
What the Mariners need to know is whether Griffey remains as capable of filling the seats with baseballs as he may be with fans. He certainly would be a favorite of fans who’ll never forget what he meant to the organization in the 1990s. But he struggled offensively this year and had trouble catching up with the fastball.
Goldberg said knee surgery this offseason should help Griffey return to a semblance of his old form. The Mariners need to know for sure what he’s got left, and in the next week to 10 days they hope to learn whether it would help them.