Caught an interesting interview last night between Q-13 Fox anchor Aaron Levine and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. It covered a wide variety of topics, but the most important was about any negotiations between the team and Felix Hernandez on a potential long-term deal.
What Zduriencik told Levine was that talks have yet to begin.
“There are a lot of ways to look at things,” Zduriencik said. “But regardless of the side of the coin you’re on, the thing you have to remember is ‘it takes two to tango.’ So, he’s got to want to stay here, and certainly if we move forward and talks would begin – there’d have to be mutual agreement, of course. But he’s a talented player, we’re happy to have him right now. We’re looking forward to watching him for the next couple years.”
What Zduriencik leaves out is that, unless the team can ink Hernandez to a long-term deal, he almost certainly won’t be pitching for Seattle the next two seasons. Hernandez likely would not get beyond 2010 with Seattle unless negotiations were already underway and close to being resolved because it would put him Hernandez in a lame duck situation and reduce the M’s bargaining power with other clubs.
Zduriencik also says that the team wasn’t close at all to dealing Hernandez this time around. He says some things about talks with other clubs were blown out of proportion but did not get specific. That’s all fine and good. Would not expect a GM to say anything less than he did about trade talks that did not result in a deal and a star pitcher he’d like to keep if it were up to him. But we’re sticking by what we wrote a week ago about the proposed three-way deal between Boston, San Diego and Seattle that would have sent Hernandez to the Red Sox. The story has yet to be refuted by anyone in either of the three cities, mainly because it’s true. If Zduriencik wants to characterize it as close, not close, or not even remotely close, that’s his perogative as one of the GMs involved.
Because the reality is, Hernandez is still here. A trade clearly did not take place and we’ll never know for sure how close Zduriencik was to pulling the trigger on it. I tend to believe these talks were merely exploratory and that the M’s never intended them to go all the way. That this was a feeling out process for down the road. Because make no mistake: unless the Mariners and Hernandez start to tango before next year’s trade deadline, this story is only going to get bigger and bigger. Expect it to be a main topic of conversation in Seattle and throughout baseball at the December winter meetings in Indianapolis.
The folks at Q-13 were kind enough to send us a partial transcript of the more pertinent questions answered by Zduriencik and I’ve included them on the ensuing page.
Watch the video of Zduriencik by clicking on this link right here.
Q. How close was this team to a more unexpected blockbuster trade [before the trade deadline]?
A. Not as close as was what was written. And some of that stuff was blown out of proportion, you know and you sit back there and sometimes other clubs fantasize on what they’d like to have. But at the end of the day, if you’re going to give up a very talented player, then you need to get a lot of talent in return, and we never really got that close.
Q. How much of a priority is getting a new deal done with Felix Hernandez?
A. You know, two and a half years is a long time. We’ll see what happens. What we wanted to do this year, our goal was to create an environment where players wanted to stay here. Where someone would be on this ballclub and play for our staff and realize what a great city and place this is and realize we have a chance to win, and we’re going to win. So, as we move forward, we hope the players realize this and then we’ll see where the next day takes us.
Q. Many analysts would say that it’s better to do it sooner than later – avoid possible arbitration and definitely avoid letting him hit the free agent market in a couple years. Do you agree with that?
A. There’s a lot of ways to look at things. But regardless of the side of the coin you’re on, the thing you have to remember is “it takes two to tango.” So, he’s gotta want to stay here, and certainly if we move forward and talks would begin – there’d have to be mutual agreement, of course. But he’s a talented player, we’re happy to have him right now. We’re looking forward to watching him for the next couple years.
Q. So talks haven’t begun yet, based on what you said?
A. Putting me on the spot here, huh? It’s….no, they haven’t.
Q. Doesn’t MLB have enough to worry about than banning warrior helmets from the bullpen?
A. I really do understand MLB’s position on this. Things can get carried away. In our case, it certainly would’ve been controlled. It was an awful lot of fun. They had a great time with it. And it really said something. It brought the group together. But I remember a couple years ago, when the University of Miami got off a plane with army fatigues on – the whole team. And things can get out of hand. The one thing is, they’re not wearing these things, they’re just symbols. But we’re under MLB’s guidelines, so we’ll follow whatever direction they make us.
Q. Is this outfield that you have right now the “outfield of the future?” Gutierrez in center, Michael Saunders in left? What do you see out of Saunders?
A. Yeah, it’s a nice start. I like him. It was a matter of time before Michael was a big league player – we all knew that. We sent our scouts out. He’s a very talented guy. He’s gonna be a fun guy to watch. With Gutierrez in center and Ichiro in right. And then again, we went into this year with Endy in left field, thinking we had the best outfield in baseball. Michael Saunders has added to that.
Q. How about second overall pick Dustin Ackley – he has to be signed by August 17th – is there any movement with him?
A. Talks have begun. Since the very beginning – when I was LA and sat with Scott Boras at a ballgame and we’ve had a couple conversations this past week, so it will intensify as we move forward into this week.
Q. Are you optimistic something’s gonna get done with him?
A. Sure. I mean, I would hope any player would realize the opportunity. It’s a great community. He’s a first-round draft pick. Second pick in the country. Why not come in and play and get your career started.
Q. How quickly can he get up to the big league level?
A. It’s difficult to say because he’s laid off the whole summer. He’s a talented kid. This guy can hit. He’s a nice player, so it should be quicker than most. But each player has his own timeframe.
Q. What’s next for Russell Branyan?
A. To finish the next two months. Russell – we hope he realizes this is a place he oughta stay. As we move forward – I talked to his wife two days ago – and Jill loves it here. I think Russell likes it here. I think the relationship we have is great. I think the relationship he has with the staff is terrific. I think when you’re a player, the one thing is, you want to be wanted. You want to be somewhere where you’re comfortable, somewhere where you know you’re an integral part of it. And he is all of those things here.
Q. As the team continues to be in the playoff hunt, how short a leash do you have with some of the younger guys after a performance like Snell last night? He has the stuff, you know it, you’re waiting for it, but how short a leash do you have with these guys?
A. No, he’s going to get a chance to pitch. We’re going to go from here to the end of the year with what we have, unless something happens unexpectedly. And Ian’s gonna be fine. He’s a talented guy. I sat in that division with the Milwaukee Brewers and watched Ian Snell and Jack Wilson play against us and again, he’s gonna be a real contributor – both of them – here to this ballclub.