October 19, 2009 at 11:06 AM
Jack Zduriencik on Kenji Johjima departure
Just got off the Jack Zduriencik conference call to address Kenji Johjima’s decision to opt out of the final two years of his Mariners’ contract. It was fraught with technical difficulties, but here are some highlights:
The Mariners are not paying any sort of buyout fee for Johjima to get out of his contract, Zduriencik said. He used the term “personal decision” by Johjima frequently to describe the situation. He would not discuss how, or whether, the Mariners would use the apparent $8 million savings for 2010 in the free-agent market.
The Mariners will now explore the market for catching. “It’s going to force us to look at other things,” he said. “You have to be aware — we have Rob Johnson going through a few surgeries, and we have an unproven talent in Adam Moore. The fact we lost a veteran creates an area you have to look at, and we’ll do that sooner rather than later.”
Zduriencik said this situation developed rapidly. “We kind of got wind of this this weekend. On Friday, there was a discussion with Alan Nero (Johjima’s agent) that this was a possibility, then there was a series of conversations. At the end of the day, Johjima made the decision…this player was a positive contributor. He had some very nice years. He was a great young man, but at the end of the day, he made a personal decision to return back and end his career in Japan. We have to respect that and honor that….We will always look at Kenji in a very positive light. But sometimes a player gets to a point in their career where they want to play close to home.”
There is speculation on some websites that follow Japanese baseball that Johjima will wind up with Hanshin.
Asked if the Mariners would have been happy to have Johjima return next season, Zduriencik said, “Of course. As we stand right now, we have a catcher going through surgies, and another that’s unproven. Kenji being a veteran catcher and an integral part of this club, I was looking forward to seeing Kenji here again.”
On the firing of third-base coach Bruce Hines, he didn’t offer much insight other than to say that he and manager Don Wakamatsu “decided we were going to go in a different direction for the 2010 season.”
On hiring a replacement, he indicated it was unlikely one of the current coaches would take over at third base.
“Don and I have been talking for the past couple days. I think we will be open to ideas. We have our own, and we’ve discussed them, but it’s a little premature right now. We’re certainly open to exploring some different avenues. … We’re not interviewing anyone yet, but we will go through that process. When it’s all finished, we hope we can bring someone that has a dynamic Don and I are both happy with.”
No news on the Ken Griffey situation. “I had some talks with Ken at the end of the year,” Zduriencik said. “I know Ken talked to a couple of our people, but I have not talked to Ken recently. No question we will have discussions with Ken, but at this moment in time, everyone is winding down from the end of the season. This will unfold as we move forward.”
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