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December 7, 2010 at 3:41 PM

Mariners deep in plenty of discussions, hoping some will bear fruit

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Just got done talking to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, who indicated he’d had a busy day chatting with agents and teams as he looks for players. Zduriencik said it was possible something could get done tonight, based on some good conversations he’s had. But he wasn’t promising anything.
Don’t forget, the meetings only began yesterday and a lot of that time was devoted to the industry gaping open-mouthed in shock and some of the money and contract years being thrown around.
Zduriencik was asked whether some of the positions under consideration for trades or free agent signings were those that could be filled from within. His answer was interesting and I think points to the fact we could a new catcher and possibly a middle infielder brought in before the meetings end.
“Can we go with a younger player? Well, sure,” he said. “But I’ve said this all along. You can only go with so many young players. Otherwise, it’s just like throwing a lot of guys out there and hoping everybody clicks. So, I do think the veteran leadership, in certain positions that we have, if we can bring that to the table, then I’d like to do that.”
On the catching side, the team is not yet sold on Adam Moore and expects big things out of him. We’ve talked about the M’s looking at free agent Gregg Zaun, but they’ve yet to meet with his representatives. The team has also looked at Miguel Olivo, the onetime M’s catcher whose hitting at Safeco Field left plenty to be desired.
Would the M’s give Olivo another go? It’s possible, but he’s likely to cost more. Olivo has been an everyday player for a long time and would probably want to be paid like one. Zaun has done the backup thing for a while now and is entering the final year or two of his career. So, we’ll see.
On the infield side. the M’s today have been linked to free agent Jorge Cantu, who hit .256 with a .697 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) for two teams last season. Cantu was an .800 OPS type of third baseman in previous seasons, but he’s also below average with the glove — usually the kiss of death for free agents looking to sign with Seatte.
You could see the M’s taking a chance on the bat, but the glove has been below average for several years now.
Shannon Drayer at 710 ESPN just tweeted that the team is looking at possibly bringing back infielder Luis Valbuena to fill some spots. That wouldn’t fit in with the whole veteran leadership thing Zduriencik spoke about, but Valbuena did get 400 or so at-bats with the Indians under manager Eric Wedge in 2009.
Valbuena just turned 25, so he’s still developing. But he posted horrible hitting numbers in the majors and minors last season and his fielding is nothing to write home about. Doesn’t seem like much of a fit, unless Wedge saw something others did not.
But the M’s already have a young player, Dustin Ackley, slotted for second base at some point. If Valbuena is to be just the placeholder, you’d think the team would want a veteran player for that role. Also, if the idea is to use Valbuena as a potential shortstop backup if and when Jack Wilson gets hurt, well, the team already has Josh Wilson for that role on a major league contract.
Josh Wilson isn’t the greatest hitter, but neither is Valbuena. At least, so far.
It will be interesting to see what the team does.
So far, the m.o. has been to target older players as potential replacements/fill-ins for younger guys who may or may not be ready.
We’ve seen that extend to the outfield, where the M’s were looking at non-tendered left fielder Matt Diaz of the Braves as a potential platoon partner for Michael Saunders. Seattle will have to join the list of several other teams looking to land Diaz, but he fits the pattern.

Zduriencik spoke about last night’s $2.9-million signing of shortstop Estelion Peguero, 17, saying that, for now, he’s being projected as a future shortstop and nothing else. You’ll remember a few years back when Carlos Triunfel came up and, though he played shortstop, everyone knew he’d one day be bounced over to second base or third.
We’re not hearing that this time around. Bob Engle, the team’s director of international scouting, called Zduriencik just over a month ago to tell him about Peguero and the fact he’d be a pricey player to acquire. They had several ensuing chats in the weeks that followed.
Yesterday, Engle called again to say Peguero was being brought in for a workout and that the M’s would have to move quickly — to beat out other teams — if they liked what they saw. Peguero was being handled by Enrique Soto, a Dominican buscon (street agent) who runs a high level operation in the Dominican Republic and has a somewhat ruthless reputation when it comes to getting the most money possible for his prospects.
Soto is based in the southwestern city of Bani (where Adrian Beltre is from) and runs his own higher-end training compound. He flies prospects to the U.S. routinely (often to Miami) to be exhibited for big league teams.
I actually visited Soto’s home in Bani five years ago to interview his son, who had just been signed by the Blue Jays. Enrique Soto wasn’t home and the local contact I had who arranged the interview was very nevous about bringing a reporter to Soto’s home when he wasn’t around.
So, we’re talking about a big-time player in an unregulated industry of tough-guy street agents. Peguero was going to attract big bucks, as other Soto prospects — like Miguel Tejada — have in the past.
The M’s shelled out big bucks.
What did they get?
“Everyone in the Dominican is excited about this guy’s bat,” Zduriencik said, adding that the fact he projects as a middle infielder offers a rare glove-bat combo.
So, we’ll see.
Wish I had more for you. Right now, I don’t.



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