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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

January 28, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Zduriencik: “We’re still looking for a right-handed bat”

jackz.jpg

GM Jack Zduriencik indicated today that the Mariners are focused on adding a right-handed bat. Here are his quotes from the luncheon:

“We’re still looking for a right-handed bat. We’d like to add a right-handed bat, to be somewhere, whether it’s at first base, DH, outfield. That’s something I think we need, and we’ll continue to pursue that in the next few days, and weeks, depending on how long it takes.

“I think you can almost look at the club and kind of figure out what’s going to be out there Opening Day. However, things change. Injuries happen. We didn’t sign Ken Griffey until right at the beginning, or a day into, spring training, and that might happen again.”

Asked if he felt a right-handed bat was the team’s one missing piece at this point, Zduriencik said, “I think it’s a factor we have to have, and we’re going to try to try to get one. Missing piece? It’s a piece that isn’t there. Willie Mays would be a nice missing piece, if you can get a guy like that. But we’re not going to do that. We’re not there right now. What we’re going to have to end up with is someone that fits our club, someone that has a degree of versatility, someone that offers an element that is an element of need right now. It is a bat. We’re open to where it can be. You can look at our club and kind of figure out where that might be.”

Will it be a full-time player?

“It depends what presents its self. I’d say it would probably be a versatile position. If we end up with that, it would probably be a guy that offers multiple skills. Or it would be a dead on ‘this is the only thing we could get,’ if you will, but that’s good enough. We’re playing with a few things right now that we’re reasonably comfortable with that might happen.”

By the way, the Seattle Times has learned that the Mariners will not be pursuing Willie Mays.

Some other Zduriencik quotes:

“The biggest excitement I have received is when I talk to the players on the ballclub. I think that is the acid test, if you will. It’s nice for a fan base to be excited and nice for fans to see what’s happening, it’s nice to add additional players of this caliber, but what’s really nice is to have a chance to sit down with some of the players the way I did yesterday at the Hutch banquet and hear what they had to say.

“I think there is a motivating factor here, that if you are on this ballclub or were part of this transition a year ago, and it continues to happen and you are able to bring in some really good caliber people, I think that other players kind of feed on this. I think there is a message sent. It’s not why you do it, but it is a natural process of the message getting to players that this is a serious thing here, we really do want to win, we do want to upgrade this organization, and the guys here feel a part of it. They are excited to add a couple of players they view as premier players.

“At this moment in time, we haven’t proven a thing. It’s nice to have had a successful winter, if you will, but as I look at it, we are still the third-best club in our division, and it will be very, very competitive. Clubs have done things to make their club better. We were challenged in some areas of our game last year, and I think we have helped ourselves in some areas of the game. But the game is not played in the newspapers, not played in the hot stove league. It is played on the field .

“I feel very confident in our coaching staff. I have an awful lot of confidence in Don and his staff and what they did a year ago. And I’m excited about what they’re going to do this year. The fact they were able to mold a group of guys together like they did, and with a lot of injuries last year and a club that was challenged offensively, there were some remarkable things that happened. The bonding of this club was, I think, a tremendously integral part of the success of this club.

“I sit here as a general manager, and I don’t feel like we’re where we need to be. We have players in this organization that need to step up. They need to accept the challenge, and they need to be out there and realize as they’re going through our Fanfest, the caravan, and as they’re in their cities working out, there’s a goal here. The responsibility falls on each individual player to meet that criteria.

“We’ll get together in about three weeks. It will be an awful lot of fun. We’ll see where it takes us. We’re still knocking on doors, listening to phone calls, and seeing where it takes us.

On the Mariners key questions heading into spring training: I think we’ll be a little bit challenged, as we speak, power wise. There are clubs out there with three 30-homer guys; that’s not the case here. We realize that. As I spoke to a group last night, when you realize what it would have cost you to get one of those big-time power bats this year, it was pretty expensive. But we took our resources and we put them in other areas. We locked in Franklin Gutierrez and Felix Hernandez, we signed Chone Figgins because we thought those were important components to being the type of club that can play at Safeco Field. Do I wish we had two 30-HR guys in this lineup? Of course. I also wish we had two more Cliff Lees and Felix Hernandezes. But that’s not the case. You are what you are. Nobody has that – at least, most clubs don’t have that.”

On the talent level in the organization, top to bottom: If we’re going to be a really good organization, what we’ve done last year and what we’ve done this year is nice. There’s a degree of necessity to it, obviously, if you want to win quicker. But if we’re going to be the type of organization that’s a premier organization, you’re going to have to do it through your system. You’re going to have to bring players up that come through your system.

“Last year was the first draft. I think they did a very nice job. I compliment Tom and his staff on the effort they put forward and the results. But, anyone that wants to sustain anything for any period of time, it’s got to come through your minor-league system. Now, if you’re able to make a deal and get a Chone Figgins, or you’re able to make a trade and get a Cliff Lee, at any point in time, you’re going to do that. But if we have to do that every year, the resources, t he history of that happening, it just doesn’t work. Good clubs build minor league systems. Now, where are we at? We made some interesting acquisitions last year that kind of go unsaid. Robles from Detroit was a really nice acquisition we’re happy with. The kid we got from Kansas City, we’re tickled pink. He’s on the 40-man roster, he’s going to roll into spring training. We have some nice pieces here. We hope Triunfel becomes a very good player, Liddi had a terrific year last year. There are other players. Ackley is a tremendous acquisition for us.

“We’re not anywhere we need to be. The depth at triple-A, to sit here and say we have a star in the making sitting at Triple-A, I don’t think is the case. Do we have pieces that can be big league contributors? Yes. When you build an organization, your superstars better come from within, because it’s very difficult to go out and pay for those guys. In Milwaukee, we were fortunate because of what Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun were doing at a young age. What happens with those guys, it affects your payroll. You’re paying those guys $400,000, and they’re producing like they’re $10 million players. That’s golden. That’s what our goal is.”

On the delicate balance between building the talent level and getting a player like Cliff Lee, who is in the last year of his contract: “That’s not as delicate a balance as you’d think. If any of you were sitting here, you’d have done what I did. There wasn’t anything genius about that. You had an opportunity to acquire a player, so you went out and acquired a Cy Young winner. Not that difficult a decision. We gave up three players we really like. The whole story on Cliff Lee is pretty simple: He fits in as a top of the rotation guy with Felix. If he’s able to stay here long term, we’re all going to be really happy. If he walks away, we’ll get two draft picks for him. From that standpoint, it made a lot of sense.

“We’ll continue to do that if we see that opportunity, but I tell Mac (scouting director Tom McNamara) all the time: ‘Tom, you’re the lifeblood of this thing. If you’re not successful, it’s going to be a struggle to maintain this thing and get where we want to get.’ But I have confidence he’s going to be successful.”

(Photo by Associated Press)

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