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Sorting out the trade rumors for the Mariners as the deadline nears

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Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has been rumored to be asking about Jon Lester and Matt Kemp for trades. (AP)

With the trade deadline coming up Thursday and the rumornado in full swirl, I think it is probably time to address a few issues.

• First of all, you have heard the Mariners name brought up in a number of rumors and you will hear it even more in the coming days. Any rumor that begins with, or more specifically constitutes only that “the Mariners have inquired about” is exactly that – they have asked.

At this point they have asked about everyone. It is what they do. Jack Zduriencik has had conversations with every GM in baseball about every player they possibly could make available and those they may not. This does not mean a deal is imminent or that it even got beyond the asking phase. It is something to report however, and that is why you see it.

• There has been a strange shift in trade talk today from Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp to Red Sox ace Jon Lester (an inquired-about player). For all the talk of the Mariners having serious interest in Kemp, I am hearing that a deal is highly unlikely.

I have heard, and this certainly could change as the clock ticks down, that the Dodgers do not want to eat a large amount of the roughly $118 million left on his contract. I have little question this would knock the Mariners out of any serious consideration for a trade. In my opinion this is a good thing. 2011 Kemp would be a great fit. 2014 Kemp seems to be heading in the wrong direction. The Mariners need help in the outfield for now and the future and this is not the player you build around.

The thing to remember here, and it applies to Rays pitcher David Price as well, is any big dollars deal the Mariners make now will impact what they can do in the future. If they spend big dollars now (if they are available, which we don’t know) then they most likely won’t have those dollars in the offseason. Because of the number of needs they still have on offense it has to be the right player who is a fit for now and the future.

• The phone calls go two ways between the Mariners and other clubs. GMs will ask about Kyle Seager knowing they will get nowhere; probably the same with Mike Zunino. It’s easy to say you want to hold on to both. But what about Dustin Ackley or Michael Saunders? I have heard both have been drawing a good amount of interest from other teams. For what would you part with either? Does Ackley’s July change your thoughts on moving him?

• The Mariners have expressed interest in Rangers outfielder Alex Rios. Who would you not be willing to deal to a division rival?

• Joel Sherman has an interesting article about the Mariners at the deadline in the New York Post today. He and others wonder why the Mariners are still focusing on acquiring an arm when their clear need is a bat or three. Here is the quote from Zduriencik that caught my eye.

“If you consider David Price a (grade) A and the only thing available to you as a hitter is a C-plus hitter, you are better off with the A pitcher,” Zduriencik said. “It really all depends what opportunity presents itself. What are you giving up to what are you getting back? It is clear you can’t win without pitching. And it is clear we need offensive help. There is a lot of jockeying going on right now (about what prices are for players). Nothing is clear cut what we will do.”

It certainly is not clear cut, but this smacks of making a move to make a move if plan A or B does not come through. I hope we don’t see that. That is what we saw when Doug Fister was traded to the Tigers. Price or any other elite pitcher with this offense as it is today most likely will not get this team to the playoffs.

I have understood and been on board with any plan that brings back a starter, but to go for a grade A starter at grade A prices in both dollars and prospects, which you then would not have available for other moves, does not make sense to me. Big dollars for a starter with the needs you have on offense does not make sense to me in general. If you are going to roll the dice, bet on your pitching.

To be clear, Zduriencik did not say he would do this and that nothing was clear cut in what he would do. This is what I hope we don’t see.

• One more interesting article – and this one is for you, Tony Matias. We have heard it before, but rival executives are once again spouting off to reporters about the Mariners, or to be more specific, Jack Zduriencik. (In fact one of those reporters, Jon Morosi, talked to 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Danny, Dave and Moore” about that very issue on Monday.)

Jack Zduriencik is tough to deal with. He’s tough to make a deal with. I’m not saying that the claims are without merit, but we’ve heard this before, yet Zduriencik continues to make deals – lots of deals, and more than most teams in baseball. Until somebody, heck a number of somebodies, come out and say they flat-out won’t deal with him, I really don’t care. Until I know (and this won’t happen) just what has been on the table and what other clubs have been willing to do I can’t even make an evaluation of the situation. Zduriencik is not a pushover? Great.

Now there is talk of indecisiveness, and this is another matter if it is truly the case. But who is to say, other than the rival executive who has a measure of motive, that this is indecisiveness rather than strategy? No, I chalk this up to “Mariners must trade Felix” type content this time of the year and file it away rather than put too much stock into it.

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