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December 6, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik tries to downplay Fielder status, but confirms he is talking to slugger’s agent

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik doesn’t like to have his ongoing negotiations with teams and players leak out in public before anything comes of them. So, it was expected, tonight, when he met with Seattle media in his suite at the Hilton Anatole hotel, that he’d try to downplay a tweet that declared his team “frontrunners” in the Prince Fielder chase.
That the tweet came from former general manager Jim Bowden — now a national baseball radio talk show host — gave it more legs than would the typical rumor floated here. Just today, Bowden had Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos on his show, where the latter stated that his team would be opposed to going more than five years on any free agent contract.
In that same link I just gave you, you’ll see mention of Ken Rosenthal of FOX saying the Cubs would like a shorter contract for Fielder as well, with more annual money thrown in.
Well, in Bowden’s tweet, he lists the Blue Jays, Cubs and Brewers as Seattle’s prime competitors for Fielder.

Watch our winter meetings live cam above for periodic live footage inside the Hilton Anatole hotel.
And tonight, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin did not sound like a guy ready to get into a bidding war for Fielder. In fact, in this linked report, he sounds like a GM planning explanations for the fanbase about why he’s about to lose a star player.
So, yeah, if the Mariners are prepared to go six years, it would appear they are indeed the “frontrunners” for Fielder. But Zduriencik, correctly, insisted there is no way for Bowden or anyone else to really know what any team is prepared to offer.
“I don’t want to talk about Prince, but I would say the wording of that is misleading,” Zduriencik said. “Because you don’t know. On any free agent. I have no clue how many clubs are in on any free agent that we’re talking to.
“Even today, the guys I’ve sat with tell me they’ve got five clubs interested in their player or players. And in any case, how do you know that? Another ballclub is not going to tell you. As I’ve said with all of this stuff, I’d prefer to be low key on any discussion. My style is not to build up a big fanfare. Sometimes these things get legs of their own.
“To say anybody is a front runner, I don’t know how that would have come out.”
It’s interesting that Zduriencik, early in the quote, finally appears to admit that he is indeed after Fielder. It’s a topic he’s hinted strongly at in recent days without actually coming out and saying it directly.
But now, it’s out there.

Zduriencik met today with Wil Polidor, the agent for infielder Carlos Guillen, 36, who the Mariners could certainly use in a multi-position role in he’s healthy. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said today that he’s asked the team to bring in some veterans to help the mostly-young club at certain spots, including the infield.
As we told you earlier, he also had a meeting set up with Jim Lindell, the agent for pitcher Jeff Francis.
Zduriencik told us tonight he’d like to bring a veteran pitcher in to help some of the younger arms in the rotation. That latter statement would appear to rule out a big splurge on a Japanese import like Yu Darvish, expected to post as a free agent shortly.
I asked Zduriencik about that and he was very quick to point out that such pitcher could come in and lead in a different kind of way — by example, for one, especially if he achieved early success.
But Zduriencik also conceded that such a pitcher would face numerous challenges adapting to the majors, the language and the culture. So, while he had nice things to say about the potential of Japanese pitchers to lead, I don’t think it’s the kind of leadership he’s looking for — especially if it could take time to materialize because the veteran has to adapt to new life overseas.
Just my take on that. But a lot of you keep asking whether the Mariners will be in on Darvish or any other Japanese pitcher.
Based on what Zduriencik said tonight, my answer would have to be “no”.
And really, if the Mariners are “frontrunning” for Fielder, the last thing they’ll be able to do is spend a big chunk of change on Darvish. Not with Ichiro and Felix Hernandez still under contract as well and a payroll that I still don’t think will go up very much — if at all.
But, check back with me in a year. By then, there could be a lot more money room.
Zduriencik said he’s yet to make a formal offer to anybody and doesn’t know whether a signing or trade will happen here. He said othert clubs appear to be juggling several needs at once on trade talks, so he doesn’t have a clear sense of when they’ll be ready to move.
For now, let’s wait and see.
Though Zduriencik called the “frontrunners” comment a “misleading” one, that does not make it wrong. And if you notice, Zduriencik isn’t really denying anything.
He’s just saying the truth. None of us will know who is in the lead until the ink on a deal is dry. But based on the comments from other GM types we’re seeing, I certainly don’t think we can rule the Mariners out of the Fielder running just yet.



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