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December 8, 2008 at 5:32 PM

Zduriencik: Lots of interest in Putz

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Just got back from a 45-minute press gathering with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik in the team’s hotel suite here at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. See the view from the room in the photo above. That’s not the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s the one at the Paris Casino here in town, across the street.
Zduriencik was asked a lot of questions about J.J. Putz. He was forthright in saying that plenty of teams have called to inquire about him. But he’s yet to have any serious trade discussions with any. Still, it’s only the first day of these meetings. These things take time to materialize.
“Sure, there have been inquiries about J.J.,” Zduriencik said. “Yes there have. We have talked about J.J. We have not made a determination in terms of what we’re going to do because that’s a very important position for us and a lot of teams in baseball.”
I thought it made sense to ask Zduriencik about Brandon Morrow and how wedded to the idea of him being a starting pitcher next season he actually is. Zduriencik said that is one aspect still under discussion. I then asked him whether or not any future trades by the team could impact that decision and he said that it could. I didn’t mention Putz by name, but it was clear by the implication who I was talking about.
“I do think that any type of player moves, whether it be signing someone, or trading someone, or bringing someone in, whatever you do to improve your ballclub, has a domino effect, no question about it,” Zduriencik said. “I think when the day is said and done, what our job (is), is to put the best talented players on the field in the position where they can have the most success.
“So, when we determine that, or how we determine that is an ongoing process that will remain unanswered until we roll into spring training and realize exactly what this ballclub is going to look like.”
In other words, yes, Morrow could slide back into the closer role if Putz is traded.
Hear the audio of the full question and answer right here.
Zduriencik recently had a telephone conversation with Putz about the trade rumors that began surfacing at the GM meetings in California last month. Putz’s agent told Zduriencik his client was wondering about his status, so Zduriencik told him to have the pitcher give him a call.
Listen here to what Zduriencik says he told Putz.
“I said ‘Hey, J.J., I can’t make any promises right now and I can’t control people calling me,’ ” Zduriencik said.
But there is a big difference, he added, between listening and actually moving on something. As a GM, Zduriencik added, “I have to listen” to all inquiries. Whether or not he’d proceed with a move, he said, depends on whether it would address both the short and long term status of the ballclub.
Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, believed to be interested in bringing Putz back to his home state of Michigan, told reporters today that “we are looking to improve our closer role. We do have somebody in-house in Fernando Rodney, who is pitching well and throwing winter ball in the Dominican at this time getting ready for the season.
“We would like to add an arm in the bullpen and we are looking at people that are in the free agent market and at some trades. So, we are exploring both of those at this time.”
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Some of you have mentioned outfielder Matt Joyce (photo) as a trade possibility. I’m told he’s a guy who, unlike pitcher Rick Porcello, the Tigers would be willing to move in the right deal. Detroit has outfield prospects it feels can measure up to Joyce. Between him an first baseman Jeff Larish, who we mentioned earlier today, the interest from teams is said to be about even. Larish drew plenty of interest from scouts down in the Arizona Fall League, though his uneven swing tends to raise questions for some. Joyce has the prettier swing of the two and posted an .831 OPS in his first 242 ABs in the majors this year, once he conquered some early struggles with hitting the breaking ball.
I’m told it’s one or the other with Joyce, or Larish. The Tigers are not keen on dealing both because they want at least one around for some added lefty power. Zduriencik told us his top priority was figuring out who is going to play left field. Joyce certainly helps that equation. I’d imagine this would be more than a one-for-one deal. That pitching prospect I told you about, Luis Marte, seems a possibility as an add-on once the teams start throwing names around.
Zduriencik said Erik Bedard checked out fine when he met with a doctor here and remains on schedule to start the season. There is now no chance of the team non-tendering Bedard. Zduriencik said he’ll be in the starting rotation.
That means a logjam of sorts pitching-wise for now, which does make it somewhat easier to slide Morrow back into the bullpen.
As for Chris Shelton, Zduriencik doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself for now. He’s open to the idea of Shelton competing for a platoon spot at first base.
“We’re open to anything,” he said. “It will be according to his performance.”
Right now, he merely wants to give him the opportunity to compete for a spot. He isn’t too concerned with left-right platoon splits right now. He just wants to give him an opportunity and see what happens.
Matt Joyce Photo Credit: Duane Burleson/AP

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