Just got done speaking to agent Scott Boras, who represents some of the game’s biggest players, including center fielder Michael Bourn, who the Mariners have expressed an interest in. Boras gave his annual “state of the union” address to a crowd of reporters in a lobby here at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. When it was done, I walked with him towards one of his meetings and he told me he’d already met with the Mariners and had no more plans to speak with them here in Nashville.
Boras said he plans to continue discussions with the team by phone in the days and weeks ahead.
“I expect that we’ll have the usual follow up,” he said. “We know where they’re at and they know where we stand but I imagine we’ll continue talking.”
The Mariners face an interesting choice in whether to bring in Bourn or go an entirely different route with somebody like corner outfielder Nick Swisher. The pricetag for outfielders keeps on climbing at these meetings, to the point where the Mariners will likely have to hand out more than they’d hoped upon arriving here.
If they choose Bourn, the Mariners will be opting to hope their younger, homegrown power will carry the day with another year under their belts and the revamped dimensions at Safeco Field. Instead, they would be putting their biggest financial resources into a leadoff hitter in Bourn and a guy who plays all-star caliber defense in center with 40-steal speed on the basepaths. Sounds a lot like what Ichiro did in his prime.
And before you laugh that last part off, it’s worth considering.
The Mariners know a guy with Ichiro’s skills can have success at Safeco Field. What they haven’t seen are too many corner outfielders who can do it beyond the truly elite level power guys.
It will be interesting to see which route GM Jack Zduriencik chooses to go with this move because his job could be riding on it. If he goes out and spends $12 million or $15 million per season on a guy and the move blows up in his face like Chone Figgins did, Zduriencik will in all likelihood be out of a job in the not-too-distant future.
So, in picking the one big free agent to do a deal with — if he actually winds up doing one — it had best be for the guy with the best chance of succeeding in a ballpark that has been death to hitters of all types. In the end, if Zduriencik decides it’s more of an Ichiro-type player who can have the best success, then Bourn might be his guy.
Swisher is a lot of things, but he’s never been looked at as a pure power guy the way Josh Hamilton is. If there is any type of Safeco Field impact on Swisher’s game, any decision by the Mariners to spend $12 million per season and up on him could have severe implications for Zduriencik — coming so soon after the Figgins disaster.
I’m not advocating for Bourn over Swisher. There are many things Swisher brings to the table that will have a more immediate impact on this team — like providing some real insurance at first base in case Justin Smoak can’t get it going. The Mariners don’t have that now and they can bring in all the bargain bats they want and that won’t be the same as Swisher doing it.
But Zduriencik has to get this one right. And that’s probably why, in the end, he would be considering a guy like Bourn, which represents a pretty abrupt departure from the type of offensive increase the team has considered with the bigger free agents. Bourn is the polar opposite of Mike Napoli in terms of skills.
So, just something worth considering. We met with Zduriencik a short time ago and he said he had some more talks with others planned for tonight. But it’s looking more and more like the Mariners won’t make a “splash” move at these meetings. If they are seriously considering Bourn, then this process could drag out for a while.