By Shannon Drayer
Jack Zduriencik followed up the general managers meetings with a trip to Peoria to get one final look at the young Mariners prospects as the Arizona Fall League winds down. From his booth in the stadium he took a few minutes on Tuesday to join “Bob and Groz” and talk about his outlook for the offseason, an offseason where he will be able to spend more than previous winters.
“We will probably have a little more money than what we started the season with a year ago,” he said. “I think it will be a little better.”
That said, it could be challenge to figure out how to spend those dollars.
“It’s really not a great free agent year,” Zduriencik pointed out. “There are players out there we like, there are players we would like to have but everyone would like to have that one marquee player, and that certainly would help. But outside of a couple of names out there that are going to be very expensive and very lengthy contracts, it appears that this might be the year to try to do some things but also still remain sensible, let our kids grow another year and see what happens.
“But we are going to try and do something. We have discussions going on and we will see where they take us.”
One way or another, he would like to bring in a hitter with experience. He may have to find that hitter via trade, which is easier said than done.
“Clubs are very reluctant to give up their young talent,” he said. “The old-fashioned baseball deal that we did last year – Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero – you don’t really have a lot of those deals take place anymore. In some ways that might be the perfect deal for us to get an offensive player that is going to be with us for a long period of time and maybe have to give up something that someone really needs. We have a lot of those discussions going on, but again, it is hard for clubs to give up young, inexpensive talent.”
As for expensive talent, he wasn’t phased by reports that the Rangers were only willing to go three years for Josh Hamilton, the best bat on the free-agent market and a bat, it would appear, Zduriencik has some level of interest in.
“I guess you have to take it with a grain of salt because you don’t know if there is posturing going on,” he said. “In the end we have to do our own homework and do our own thoughts on it. What we are hearing is this is going to be pretty expensive and pretty lengthy.”
“In all those things you have to think through it and realize there’s a lot of things attached to any particular player you get,” he continued. “Whether it be years, whether it be his money, then there are all the other issues attached to players. We will see what happens, we will see where this one unfolds.”
With money to spend, Bob Stelton asked Zduriencik if he could see himself spending it all on one player or if he thought it would be better to use the money to fill multiple needs.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has more money to spend than he’s had in previous offseasons. (AP)
“Would you love to be able to add the big piece? Sure you would if you were convinced it was the right piece and the rest of the pieces around you in the next couple of years are going to be the kind of club to compete,” Zduriencik answered.
“To spend money just to spend it? Any good player is going to make your club a little better but good players come with long contracts and are very expensive. Philosophically, I think every situation is different.”
He cited last year’s dealings with Prince Fielder as an example.
“I had an enormous number of discussions with [agent] Scott Boras about that, but to go the kind of years and dollars that he ended up with? We were not going to go there,” Zduriencik said. “I said early on we had a threshold. What I was really hoping was it was something where Prince decided to find a home for a shorter period of time but at the end of the day he got the kind of contract he said he was going to get.”
Could the situation be different this year?
“We will continue to do what we are doing and if the right piece is there and we think this is the piece that we think is the right piece for us for the long term and short term, then we would commit to doing that,” Zduriencik said.
Interestingly enough, Zduriencik said that surrendering a draft pick is something he is taking into account when looking for help on the free-agent market. In addition to Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche, Kyle Loshe, B.J. Upton, Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, and Hiroki Kuroda will all require the signing team to give up a draft pick.
“There’s a few players on that list that I would like to have but I am really not willing to give up that draft pick,” Zduriencik said. “Some players you would. This guy is a difference maker, but other guys are going to come in and just be a nice player and it may not be the thing to do.”
Another place he may look to spend money would be on an extension for Felix Hernandez.
“Keeping Felix here for any length of time I would say is a priority,” he said. “We think an awful lot of Felix and I know Felix wants to be a part of this thing so yes, we would love to have Felix here for a long time.”
As for what he was watching on the field in Peoria while doing the interview, Zduriencik said he’s pleased with the progress of the young talent he has in the organization but that he is not looking for any surprises in spring training from the position players.
“Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, Stefen Romero, probably are still a little bit away yet, just because of their age and inexperience,” he said.
The pitching may be closer but Zduriencik admitted that it is still too early to tell with James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Brandon Maurer.
For now, Zduriencik is focusing on what could possibly be brought into the organization. He knows what he would like to do. Time will tell if it can be accomplished.
“You never know. They have choices, decisions, it’s not always in your hands,” he said. “We have had a lot of discussions, a lot of dialog (at the GM meetings). For most people it was just an exchange of ideas and seeing where that takes us so now there will be a lot of follow-up phone calls this week which will lead into the winter meetings in December.”