Zduriencik meets with outfielder Bourn's agent
Mariners general manager leaning toward signing two veteran hitters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik continued pursuing every available avenue to improve his club's offense on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. His agenda included a sitdown with agent Scott Boras, whose top available client is free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn.
Zduriencik didn't mention any specific player when he updated the media Tuesday afternoon in his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, but acknowledged being open to adding two outfielders to his roster in the right scenario.
"It would be great if you could add a speed guy. That always helps," Zduriencik said. "And it would be great to add a power guy. If you look at the two things we'd love to be able to do it would be to bring somebody in to be a base-stealing threat and somebody who could hit the ball out of the ballpark. Those would be two nice additions."
Zduriencik seems intent on adding two veteran hitters, if possible, with first base one option. But with a returning quartet of Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells and Eric Thames in the outfield, Seattle clearly has room to add now that Ichiro Suzuki and his $18 million contract are no longer on the roster.
"It's very possible," he said of signing two outfielders. "I'm not saying we would, but I could see that. Sometimes you get the multiple-position guy [who could also play first], sometimes it's just an outfielder. One piece may be bigger than the other, that type of deal."
Attaching names to such a concept isn't something Zduriencik is willing to do, but if you connect some dots, it's conceivable to see the Mariners pursuing a pricey leadoff hitter like Bourn and then also bringing in a lower-priced veteran with some pop like Raul Ibanez or Jason Bay, both of whom are on the club's radar and would be available on one-year deals.
Bourn, 29, is a two-time All-Star with the Braves who hit .274 with 42 stolen bases last year and is one of the premier free agents available. A two-time Gold Glove center fielder, he could fit nicely into Safeco Field as another quality left-handed bat.
Do the Mariners need a leadoff hitter, a role handled by Dustin Ackley after Ichiro's departure?
"I think you just look at options and try to make the club better," Zduriencik said. "As you go through the whole process this week, you should engage in every opportunity that presents itself. And at the end, you evaluate."
Which is why the Mariners have been mentioned in connection with virtually every notable top free-agent hitter at the Meetings at some point, from outfielders Josh Hamilton to Nick Swisher to Bourn and new Red Sox catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli.
They've been linked in trade talks with the D-backs for Justin Upton or Jason Kubel, with the Nationals for Mike Morse, with the Royals for Billy Butler or top young outfielder prospect Wil Myers.
But there hasn't been a lot of movement on many fronts so far at the sprawling Opryland Resort, and that's true for the Mariners as well.
"Continued dialogue and discussions," Zduriencik said. "I wouldn't say we're close [on any moves]. But I think we're farther into the process with things."
The Mariners have said they're willing to look at all options to upgrade their offense, but Zduriencik bristled when asked about the perception his club was "desperate" to add a big bat.
"We're doing what we can to make the team better, but I'm not going to do anything foolish," he said. "If someone is sitting there saying, 'I'm going to get an extra player from them because they're desperate,' then they're full of [crap]. I'm not doing that. ... There are some nice pieces in this organization that other people would like to have and none of them are going to be moved out of desperation. That is not going to happen."
Ibanez, 40, is a free agent who would certainly fill the veteran leader-type the Mariners would like to add to their mix. He's had two stints in Seattle already, having spent 10 of his 17 seasons with the Mariners, and played a key role in the playoffs last year for the Yankees after batting .240 with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs in 384 at-bats in the regular season.
Bay was released by the Mets this past season even though he still has $21 million coming to him on a contract that was instead bought out. He averaged 27 home runs and 99 RBIs over a six-year run with the Red Sox and Pirates, but those numbers dropped dramatically after signing a four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets.
He hit .234 with 26 home runs and 124 RBIs in three seasons with the Mets, including a .165 average with eight homers and 20 RBIs in 70 games last year, and would be available on a low-cost deal given his situation. Bay lives in the Seattle area and went to college at Gonzaga. The Indians reportedly are also interested.
Zduriencik said finding a couple of quality veterans to help the Mariners young mix of talent is a "key component" in what he and manager Eric Wedge would like to add.
"We have looked at the makeup of players and how they'd help in the locker room setting," he said. "It's a calculated assessment of how somebody would come in that's been around places and players that understand how to win and go to the next step. We've talked about it more than you'd think. It's something Eric and I spent a lot of time on."