By Shannon Drayer
As the winter meetings hit their midpoint Tuesday, Jack Zduriencik took a few minutes to join “Wyman Mike and Moore ” on 710 ESPN Seattle.
While declining to answer most questions about the story that appeared in Sunday’s edition of The Seattle Times, the Mariners’ general manager did say that the critical comments made by Eric Wedge and other former employees have not slowed him down or hindered his attempts to make deals at the winter meetings.
“They did what they did and that’s their decision, and my decision is to take the high road as best I can,” Jack Zduriencik said when asked about the critical comments made by Eric Wedge and other former club employees. (AP)
“The media has asked a lot of questions regarding this stuff, but when you sit in rooms with GMs and with agents and you hear what their comments are, you hear their opinions of things because they know a lot, it has been very supportive, enormously supportive,” he said.
“I’ve gotten tons of calls and emails and texts. The rooms I have been in and the people I have talked to, I think have had a little different flavor of it. I will just say that. Players want to play, we are trying to build this organization and I think people recognize where we are at and I think they appreciate that and we are here to do baseball business.”
A large piece of that business has already been done with the pending signing of Robinson Cano. According to Zduriencik, the dealings with Cano’s representation were much friendlier than portrayed by some in the New York media.
“I had a great time with Roc Nation and Jay Z himself,” Zduriencik said. “I thought the camaraderie was fantastic. I think Chuck Armstrong and a couple of other people hit it off. It was hilarious to sit there and watch the nagging and the pushing that happened, but there was really, really nothing negative at all. We made a very, very nice presentation to this player, we paid him a lot of money and he made a decision to move to a different scenario for his career. We are excited about it. We obviously have yet to finalize it, but throughout the whole negotiations it was as professional and as cordial as I have ever been involved in.”
With that deal all but done pending a physical that is expected to take place Wednesday, Zduriencik has more work to do in order to fill several needs the ballclub still has. The Mariners have been mentioned as a possible trading partner for the Rays in their attemps to move David Price, but Tampa Bay’s asking price is high. Zduriencik acknowledged that there had been talks between the two clubs.
“Yes, we have had discussions with that. I think the decision comes down to us as an organization evaluating where we are at and are you willing to take a short-term deal and give up pieces that were going to be with you for a long time,” he said. “That’s the debate and a fair question. That’s what we are wrestling with right now.”
The Rays are said to be demanding prize young pitcher Taijuan Walker in any deal for Price. While stopping short of calling Walker untouchable, Zduriencik made it clear that the organization values him highly.
“He is very well thought of and we really relish him, but I think at the end of the day, my thought is Taijuan Walker is going to be a Seattle Mariner,” he said.
“I think at the end of the day, my thought is Taijuan Walker is going to be a Seattle Mariner,” Zduriencik said when asked about speculation that the Mariners might trade their prized young right-hander. (AP)
Zduriencik was asked about the starting lineup and he diverted the question somewhat by listing the players that he currently has. One interesting position he mentioned, however, was shortstop. Nick Franklin has been displaced by Cano and the assumption is that he will be traded. That should not be a given, though, as Zduriencik’s comment about the middle infield indicated.
“We will let our young kids fight it out for the middle of the infield,” he said.
The interview finished with a series of rapid-fire questions.
What is the likelihood that designated hitter Kendrys Morales returns?
“Now, he’s a free agent and he is testing the market and now we are in basically in the same seat that everyone else is,” Zduriencik said. “If Kendrys wants to come back here or if we choose to bring him back then we have to negotiate with him like everyone else does. The difference with Kendrys is, if he doesn’t sign with us then we will get a first-round pick for him signing elsewhere.”
What about the rumors that that outfielder Nelson Cruz turned down a five-year, $75 million offer from the Mariners?
“Inaccurate,” Zduriencik said flatly.
What are the odds of Shin-Soo Choo signing with the Mariners?
“Depending on where the dollars end up, there’s a breaking point for everybody,” he said. “We’ve made one huge sign. You are not going to be able to go out and do two or three more. That just financially isn’t feasible for us. So we’ll see what happens. Certainly we have had conversations, but it does depend on where the dollars end up.”
How about right-hander Bartolo Colon?
“He had a great year,” Zduriencik said. “We like Bartolo Colon and we like a lot of players. He certainly is a guy we have talked to. Where it ends up we will see.”
What’s the plan for Jesus Montero?
“He’s got a lot to prove,” Zduriencik answered. “Two years ago when we looked at him coming to the big leagues, putting up the numbers he did, I think we were all excited about what this guy could be. Now that said, I think if you are sitting in my chair, he’s not a guy you can particularly count on. He may come in and do what we thought he would do when we made the trade but I don’t think you can pencil him in and say, ‘This is the guy we are going with.’ If he rolls into spring training and proves himself, makes this club and is the player we thought he could be because he is a very talented offensive player? But that is all up to him. Most of this has to do with how he prepares himself and how he is ready to come into spring training.”