General manager Jack Zduriencik had a conference call with local reporters early this afternoon to discuss the upcoming winter meetings.
“I wanted to give you an update as much as I can without saying anything,” Zduriencik joked.
But really there was one question looming over the call and on everyone’s mind: What’s going on with Robinson Cano?
As most of you know, Zduriencik does not comment on this sort of stuff. He hasn’t since he arrived in Seattle in 2009. Still it needed to be asked in some way. Times’ columnist Larry Stone had the honors today. And Zduriencik essentially shot it down.
Stone: “Jack, I know you don’t like to talk about specific players. But there’s been a lot of national interest on Robinson Cano. Is there anything you can say about the Mariners’ interest in him?”
Zduriencik: “You know, Larry, it’s like I’ve always said. I think any time you are engaging or attempting to engage or having ongoing discussions or even any hints of any kinds of things, you have to keep it in house. We have a lot of dialogue going on a lot of fronts.”
But the Mariners are clearly interested in Cano and there is an understanding in the organization that they will have to overpay to get him. How much? It could be over $200 million for eight years.
On the subject large, long-term contracts – not specifically Cano – and teams growing more and more resistant to giving deals over five years to free agents, Zduriencik’s comments were telling.
“I don’t think anybody loves them,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case with anybody in baseball. Any kind of deal you can get on a short term, there’s more surety to it and less risk. But then there’s also the market that plays into it. You’ve seen these things go the way they go. You have to adapt to the market. In some cases, if you have to stretch more than you want, then you just have to and there’s not much you can do about it.”
Zduriencik hinted the team has payroll flexibility to make that happen.
“It was a clear goal of ours is to get us to point where we would have young and inexpensive players throughout the line-up and I think we’ve accomplished that goal,” he said. ”I always felt there would be a time where would have to augment this club. I think we are at that time. I do think I have a lot of support.”
As for the perception that the Mariners are “desperate for hitting,” Zduriencik didn’t seem to like it, but couldn’t really deny it.
“I think we need to improve that area, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” he said. “If we could bring in some bats, that would be great. But if Icould add some pitching, I’d be happy to do that as well.”
Ideally, those bats would be outfielders.
“When you want to improve yourself offense is one area, another starting pitcher would be a great and you never walk away froma good bullpen arm,” Zduriencik said. “I would say overall, there’s a few places on this club we’d like to address, outfield would be one and offense would be the other.”
When asked if they needed to add two bats, Zduriencik said, “That would be great, I’d like to add three.”
The Mariners have certainly been linked to more than three hitters. They’ve been linked to almost every free agent.
“The fact that we are linked to a lot of people, well, we probably should be, based on the work we’ve done,” Zduriencik said.