Hot Stove wrapup: Zduriencik not likely to give up top pitching prospects

Dec 12, 2012, 1:00 AM | Updated: 10:41 am

By Shannon Drayer

The first “Hot Stove League Show” of the season is in the books and if you missed, it head to the podcast page to catch the entire broadcast, which featured interviews with Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge.

Zduriencik told us that he has been busy on the phones and that discussions continue with both free agents and with teams regarding trades. While there has been a lot of interest shown in the Mariners’ young players, he isn’t seeing the return he would need to see on the young pitchers in particular to pull the string on a trade. Right now, teams are offering players with one or two years control and Zduriencik is not willing to give up top prospects for that.

Taijuan Walker and the Mariners’ other two top pitching prospects have no big-league experience. (AP)

The lack of return is not the only reason we might not see Zduriencik trade his pitching this winter. He spoke at length about maximizing their value, which he believes will not happen until they make it to the big leagues. As for the players already in the big leagues, it didn’t sound like he wanted to move them either. I asked him if he had his druthers, would he like to hold onto what he has now and give it another year to grow?

“That is probably not the popular thing to say because I would love to be able to do something right now, love to be able to do it, and maybe we will through free agency,” he answered. “There are a lot of factors that go into why a player chooses a certain city to come to and play, but we are going to listen, we will continue to have talks, but at the end, we have a pretty good thing going right now and to throw it away for a short-term fix? I don’t believe is going to be the right answer.”

As for the free-agent options, Matt Pitman asked what the involvement was with some of the premier names.

“Pretty heavy,” Zduriencik said. “I had a lot of discussions this afternoon and morning. I can’t make any promises because who knows where some of this will go. As we just saw with the Zack Greinke deal, that’s a pretty spectacular contract. It is possible that along the way some player might say, ‘Hey, I want to be in Seattle for all the reasons we talked about’ and another guy might say, ‘I’m taking the biggest contract.’ There is not anything you can do about that. We will see what happens.”

Wedge echoed a lot of what Zduriencik said about keeping the core of the team, “sticking with the plan and having the discipline and guts to do it,” in his words.

“To be a true championship team and sustain that level of championship play you have got to stick to your guns right now,” Wedge asserted. “Yeah, you want to add to it and you might even make a trade but that trade has got to make sense and not take away from what you have been doing.”

If they are to stick with what they have, I asked Wedge what would happen if the players, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak in particular, did not produce. Last year the focus was to get them the experience and to learn at the big-league level. Take their lumps, which they did. How much rope would they have after a year of such experience?

“Less,” Wedge answered. “Something might happen this year with one of our guys. The rope is shorter. Every year the rope gets shorter. I am as patient as anyone but the fact of the matter is we are going to become a better club and because of that there are going to be better options than you, so if you are struggling we are going to go get somebody else.”

Zduriencik may or may not make an impact move between now and the start of the season. Regardless of what this club starts with in April, however, I think there is a good chance it could look very different in the second half of the year. Wedge will have options at Triple-A with Nick Franklin and Carlos Truinfel pushing for middle infield spots and the versatile Stefen Romero, who played first base in college, could possibly could challenge Smoak if he struggles. If one of the Big 3 makes the club out of spring training, Zduriencik could look to trade pitching during the season.

At some point, trades will be made. Just maybe not this winter. We shall see.

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