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Will Jack Zduriencik stay the course at the deadline?

By Shannon Drayer

The “sellers” label was put on the Mariners before the season even began. The number of one-year contracts they had and the assumption that they were still more in a rebuild than compete mode had the team pegged to be a replenisher for those who would make a charge in the final months.

Two weeks ago, general manager Jack Zduriencik said that while he would listen to offers he would rather keep the club together and give it an opportunity to win down the stretch. For the month of July the Mariners have done just that, going 15-9 so far, though they are just 2-4 in their last six games. An injury to Mike Zunino and the inability to replace him with anything near what he was bringing offensively – or defensively, for that matter – has taken away a significant piece of the recent success for at least another four weeks.

The Rangers have shown interest in Michael Morse, but will they part with anything of significance to get him? (AP)

Does this change the deadline equation at all for the Mariners?

I had thought there was a decent chance we could see Brendan Ryan moved but with Detroit and Oakland filling middle-infield needs Tuesday night that is looking less likely now. I had been told there could be interest in Joe Saunders because of what he did in the postseason last year but back-to-back rather ugly losses may have put a damper on that as well. Oliver Perez remains an option but as one of the last lines of defense to precious wins and with an already precarious bullpen situation, that looks like a move Zduriencik would rather stay away from.

If a move is to happen it would have to bring back something significant, and with one team in particular getting desperate, it could happen. The Rangers would dearly like a right-handed bat. With the possibility of losing Nelson Cruz in the next couple of days to a Biogenesis suspension, they have a need. Both Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse have been of interest to them. How much interest? Well, that is the question. What would Texas be willing to give to a division rival for the short-term rental?

While both players are free agents at the end of the season, Morales carries more value as the Mariners would most likely extend the qualifying offer to him and come away with draft-pick compensation should he go elsewhere. Zduriencik does not have to trade Morales to get value for him. There is value in his possible contributions in the final months of the season as well as the compensation pick. Can Zduriencik get more value if he does trade him?

The value of Morse to the team, however, is different as he will not be given the qualifying offer at the end of the season. His value to the Mariners is what he brings in the last two months. Yes, he is a needed right-handed bat but the Mariners have a crowded outfield right now and it’s possible that Franklin Gutierrez will return. In a way, Morse is blocking Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley. The Mariners need to learn more about both players and both players will lose at least some playing time with Morse back.

How much interest is there in Morse? Enough that there were scouts watching him on his rehab assignment in Tacoma. One told me the concern with him was that he strikes out too much. He also said, however, that the fact that he is at the end of his contract is a plus. The big question now is how much would a team be willing to give up to get him. Regardless of fit with the team, Zduriencik is going to want something of significance in return.

This could be an interesting final hours leading up to the trade deadline.

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