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December 5, 2011 at 5:22 PM

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik appears to be in a holding pattern on Prince Fielder

Just got done speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik up in his suite and as you all know, he’s very reluctant to discuss free agents by name when it comes to who his team is looking at. But sometimes, it’s not what you say directly, but how you respond to questions.
Based on what Zduriencik told us, I’d say he’s in a holding pattern on Prince Fielder for now, waiting to see whether or not the market comes down. And it very well may, given that teams here seem reluctant to jump in with both feet on a guy whose agent, Scott Boras, has reportedly been seeking a contract up to eight years in length and $200 million in cost.

I told you last night that the Blue Jays have indicated they aren’t interested in Fielder. The reason, I’m told, is that the team’s president and ownwership would never philosophically approve a contract of six-to-eight years on any player. The Jays apparently had a tough sell getting a five-year extension approved for homegrown starting pitcher and former first-round pick Ricky Romero, so anything more than that is apparently out of the question.
Now, that could change if the market for Fielder starts dropping into the five-year range. Then, you could see teams that, for now, have been dipping their toes in the water, suddenly come jumping in full speed ahead. Today, we heard the Milwaukee Brewers are telling folks they are no longer in the hunt for Fielder. And within the past two hours, former Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden — now a baseball radio show host — said a team source told him they won’t be after Fielder either.
Again, if the market falls, that could change big-time for some teams. Funny, though, how two of the three teams rumored over the weekend to be part of Fielder’s final shortlist — the Blue Jays and Brewers — are now letting it get out there that they have little interest. Sounds like posturing. Like a concerted effort to get Boras to drop his demands on money and length.
As for Zduriencik, he was discussing the market here with us today when he said: “I think some of these big free agents are holding things up.
“I think a lot of clubs are conserving their chips.”
So, I asked Zduriencik, are the Mariners one of those teams still figuring out whether they’ll be spending big money on a big free agent, or going another direction?
He thought about it for a bit, then replied:
“Everyone has limited dollars to spend and every club has to figure out — as they understand the demands of a player or the demands of a trade — how they will be able to spend those dollars.”
I asked Zduriencik whether he’d made up his mind about whether any big free agents he might be pursuing are simply a lost cause. Whether he’s had to abandon such plans and go another course.
“Not completely,” he said.
Photo Credit: Tim Hevly/Seattle Mariners

Zduriencik was then asked whether he was prepared to say anything for-the-record about Fielder.
“I don’t think I can go down that road yet,” he said. “I’ve had discussions with some prominent agents. We’ve discussed their clients as well as our organizational needs. That’s pretty much all I can say right now.”
Zduriencik expects to have more discussions here in coming days. Again, he never mentioned Fielder by name but it’s pretty clear that’s who he was referring to.
He didn’t name any timeframe for getting something done, but added: “I also think there’s a point where you get to an endgame. Where, if you have the ability to do other things, you can’t let that hold you up.
“A week from now, we’ll know a lot more than we do today.”
The Fielder question hasn’t prevented the Mariners from discussing potential trades with a variety of teams. Zduriencik said he spent most of the day engaged in such discussions and also plans to meet with representatives of various free agents the next couple of days.
He’s already initiated several of those free agent conversations prior to coming here and has spoken with agents by phone today to set up further discussions.
We’ve already mentioned some names for you in prior blog posts.
The one interesting thing that came out of today’s session is that I think the Mariners are leaning towards inviting Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki to camp on a minor league deal. Zduriencik again would not mention Kawasaki by name, but was asked what he felt when the shortstop said he’d love to play for only Seattle and on a minor league deal if needed.
He replied that such a deal “affords you great flexibility.”
In other words, the team could bring Kawasaki to camp, see if he’s for real and then move accordingly.
I asked whether Zduriencik would value defense or offense more in his backup shortstop, given that Kawasaki is known more for his glove than his bat.
“I think primarily, when you look at our situation, defense for the backup infielder, would be more desirable than an offensive infielder,” he said.
So, that’s another point in Kawasaki’s corner. He has the same agent as Ichiro, that being Tony Attanasio, so we can assume there have already been some discussions between the camps about this.



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