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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

December 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Winter Meetings Day 2 open thread: “60 percent of the time, it works every time”

10:46 p.m. — wrapping up some of Jack Z’s comments

Posted the truncated version earlier as I had to write for the paper. Here’s some more stuff from our meeting with Jack Zduriencik.

He said that the team had multiple meetings with agents and various teams in his search for a right fielder. But no move is imminent.

“We have our discussions going and my sense is it’s going to take a little more time on a couple different fronts,” Zduriencik said.

Are there outfielders available that they feel they can bring in as a fit for their needs?

“I do. Talent-wise, certainly, ” he said. “What’s fit in with the talent is what you are willing to offer a player dollar-wise, what you can afford to offer a player dollar-wise as well as length of contract. This player can help us . There’s a legitimate chance to bring the player in based on those demands. And those demands can change.”

“There are also other players that could help us that are maybe not high-profile guys, but guys that could contribute,” he said. “And the greatest thing would be if some one of our own kids.  But we are going to continue to have these discussions until they exhaust themselves, then we’ll go to alternatives if it doesn’t work. But we certainly want to touch base with guys we like and think can come in and help us and make a difference.”

That’s a lot of Jack-speak trying to downplay some interest. But the odds of starting the season with James Jones or Stefen Romero as the starting right fielder are unlikely. Zduriencik mentioned those players when discussing bench and fourth and fifth outfielder options. They just aren’t ready.

Zduriencik said he has the payroll flexibility to make a move work.

“I’m comfortable with where we’re at,” he said. “We have enough room right now where we can make a reasonable addition. Some of the long-term, high-profile upper-echelon dollars, we’re not going to be in that market. It’s just not going to happen. But I do think we have room to make a move that will help the club.”

Zduriencik is playing coy a little. The Cabrera contract shouldn’t be considered that as high-profile, upper-echelon. Now Matt Kemp? That may be different. That’s $100 million. Cabrera is rumored to be half of that. If that is too much, then someone like Alex Rios or maybe pushing for a trade for Ben Zobrist seems like a better option.

Some people are high on Dexter Fowler. The Astros are starving for relief pitching of any sort, it may be a match. But it seems as though Houston prefers to keep Fowler.

*** Robinson Cano is fully healthy after suffering a broken toe in Japan. Zduriencik said he’s fine and ready for spring training.

*** Here’s my story on top prospect Alex Jackson, who was honored by Baseball America on Tuesday night.  Jackson will be at FanFest, which I think will run Jan. 24-25.

*** We asked for a status update on Jesus Montero today. Here’s some of Jack’s comments.

Montero has spent the season in Peoria working out with strength coach Jimmy Clifford.

“We should tip (our) hat do what he’s done,” Zduriencik said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He has worked a lot of days to the point of absolute exhaustion. It was designed that way, to try to get him in a position to where he went above and beyond anything he’s ever done before. I think that goal has been accomplished. Everything they’ve told me about how he’s approached this has been extremely positive.”

Montero’s issues aren’t just physical. The Mariners have put him through some counseling and other therapy as well to deal with anger and other issues following his suspension for a confrontation with a now former Mariners’ scout, Butch Baccala.

“I think mentally he’s in a good spot,” Zduriencik said. “I think he views himself differently than he probably did a year ago. The process he’s been through has been extremely painful, but I also think there are rewards at the end of this thing. I don’t think any of us would want more than for Jesus Montero to become a really good citizen and a really nice baseball player because the skills are there for him to do it.”

“But he has to maintain these things. He’s had other obstacles in his life that have prevented him from doing it. But he’s at a really good place in his life right now. He’s really appreciative of what he has and that’s a very important element for him to be successful going forward.”

As for what Zduriencik expects from Montero spring?

“The message I gave him was he has to mentally view himself as a first baseman,” he said. “He has to say to himself, ‘This is where I’m going to play.’ If he’s a DH someday, that will take care of itself. But he has to commit himself to being an adequate first baseman. He’s a big, physical guy. If he could play there, it would be a benefit to everybody.”

 

10:30 p.m. — Jon Lester to the Cubs

Ken Rosenthal had it first. But Lester is headed to the Cubs. That should help kick start the rest of the market that has been on hold while the Bellarmine Prep grad decided his destination.  It’s supposedly six years, $155 million per Jeff Passan.

Max Scherzer will now ask for more than that.

5:21 p.m. – quick update before the live chat. 

We met with GM Jack Zduriencik and then walked over to the Hilton to talk with Alex Jackson, considered the top prospect in the Mariners’ organization by Baseball America. Jackson, who lives in the San Diego area, is being honored as the top high school baseball player by Baseball America.

He’s added 15 pounds of muscle since he was drafted and is preparing for spring training.

***

Zduriencik said they met with multiple agents and teams and several phone calls on Tuesday. They’ve had “continuing dialogue” in the search for outfield help. He didn’t think anything was imminent.

He admitted that the slowed free agent pitching market because of Jon Lester has affected the rest of the free agent  market because teams are focused on that aspect and free agents position players are waiting to see the results because they are a “plan B.”

“Maybe a team doesn’t get their No. 1 goal, so they look to their No. 2 goal,” Zduriencik said.

* Zduriencik said the talent is there on the trade and free agent market to make a move.

“There’s a legitimate chance that we could bring a player based on his demands,” he said. “But those demands could change the next day. We are going to continue to have these discussions until they exhaust themselves. We certainly want to make sure we’ve touched base with guys we like and guys that we think can come in and help us.”

Asked for an update on Jesus Montero, Zduriencik said that he’s done everything the Mariners have asked. He’s been going to daily workouts with strength coach Jimmy Clifford and has worked hard. The Mariners have had a nutritionist over to his house in Arizona to help educate Montero and his wife.

 

3:08 p.m. — Kemp stuff 

Jon Heyman had this tweet earlier

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 3.08.33 PM

The Dodgers have been said to be asking for players and not taking much money. Maybe that’s forced from the Mariners the discussion. But no deal is ever dead until someone else makes it instead.

Seattle has been reluctant to give up its young pitching. Perhaps that will remain the deal breaker.

2 p.m. — BBWAA recommends changes to hall of fame voting

Sorry for the delay. We had an hour and 10 minute meeting for members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It’s an annual deal here. And then there was a need for food.

There are a few items of news from that meeting, one of which has some importance to Edgar Martinez.

First, the members voted to expand the annual fall of fame ballot from 10 players to 12 players. That’s a big thing with more and more players like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. (next season) becoming eligible. The two extra spots might keep Martinez on more ballots and up his chances. The new ballot isn’t set in stone. This is a recommendation to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which must approve that change. But it sounds like it should pass through.

Martinez was hurt by the decision to remove players from the Hall of Fame ballot after 10 years instead of 15.

Second, the BBWAA members voted to change membership policies for the 2016 season. With the changing ways baseball is being reported and the different outlets, determining who is eligible to be a member has been up to national membership committee and a vote. This year we gave BBWAA credentials to people from CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Baseball Prospectus and others. Now, that power will go to the local chapters under the idea that they have a better idea of people in their area wanting BBWAA credentials. There will also be a two tier members for BBWAA – there would be an access membership for people who cover on a daily basis that would provide full access to all major league ball parks. The general access membership would not have full access and need credentials from the team.

So basically, say Jeff Sullivan, who writes for Fangraphs and lives in Portland (considered part of our chapter), wants to be a BBWAA member. He would apply for membership. It would be reviewed by the local Seattle chapter chairman and then either approved or denied.

Boring? Yes. Pointless to you? Pretty much. But I feel like I needed to write something about it since I had to sit through it. Also it’s good that the BBWAA, which also handles the voting for major awards, is trying to be amenable to the changing ways baseball is now covered. The membership is shrinking and aging. It needs to be proactive.

The rest of the hour was spent in vigorous debate about allowing MLB.com writers to be members, which will not be decided any time soon.

10:34 a.m. — reviewing some stuff Monday 

Jack Zduriencik talked with the media for 11 minutes yesterday. I’m going back over my recording just to add some notes.

It was mentioned that Franklin Gutierrez hit a homer yesterday in his first Winter League game. The Mariners were expecting Gutierrez to play winter league baseball as part of their evaluation to see if they may bring him back.

To clear up any confusion. 1. Gutierrez is a free agent and not the Mariners’ property. 2. If Seattle were to take a chance on him, it would be on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. They aren’t going to give him a MLB contract for what should be obvious reasons.

“I don’t really know where he’s at mentally or physically,” Zduriencik said. “I haven’t talked to him.”

***

Mike Zunino is the starting catcher. Jesus Sucre will be the back-up. Prospect John Hicks will be the every day guy in Class AAA.

Last season, the Mariners brought in Humberto Quintero to have at Class AAA in case Zunino got hurt and Sucre flamed out. They likely bring in a guy this season. Hicks, now on the 40-man roster, will get the bulk of the playing time. If something happens to Zunino or Sucre, he’s going to be the guy called up.

“Everyone likes John Hicks,” Zduriencik said. “Everyone feels that if you had to run him to the big leagues right now, he could be a big league player. He’s an interesting player. He’s very athletic. He’s a nice receiver and has some offensive ability. He’s got an accurate arm and a quick release.”

How good of an athlete is Hicks? He stole 22 bases at Class A High Desert in 2012.

As for his defense, talking with a Mariners source. They would like him to shore up his framing, but they believe he’s the best catch and throw guy. Hicks has thrown out 47 percent of the base stealers in his minor league career.

***

Mentioned in today’s story and earlier this week: if Brad Miller is still with the team come spring training, you can expect him to spend some time learning how to play outfield. There is a belief within the organization that he might not be an everyday shortstop because of defensive inconsistency. His UZR is 1.4, his DRS is -5 and I’m not a huge fan of using only defensive metrics. The issues with uneven and inconsistent footwork that leads to mistakes even on routine balls may not be easily overcome. It’s something he addressed much of last season. There were times where he looked competent, and other times where he seemed hesitant and every play was iffy. That’s not a way to go through a season. Miller is a tireless worker but if he can provide value at another position then it’s logical to explore it.

And Miller can hit. Everyone in the organization believes he will be a solid big league hitter. Opposing scouts have said the same thing too. So that’s why you may see him play some left field and right field, shortstop on occasion and other positions in a Zobristian way.

Taylor, who wasn’t perfect at shortstop either, is considered to be better fundamentally. There is a little more of a trust factor with his positioning and his ability to make the routine play, as well as plays up the middle.

Zduriencik isn’t going to come out and talk about any spring training plans for Miller for a couple reasons. He hasn’t told Miller officially about it.  He also doesn’t want to devalue Miller on the trade market. He’s much more valuable as a potential shortstop.

10:11 a.m. — Jack Zduriencik on MLB Network

Zduriencik was on with Harold Reynolds and Chris Rose yesterday. Here’s video of it.

Zduriencik reiterates on there what he’s told us often — he isn’t likely to give up starting pitching.

“We want to add,” he said. “It would take something special to give up something young and controllable.”

Other comments from Zduriencik:

  • “I think our fans are pretty sophisticated.”
  • “Things are trending in the right direction for us.”
  • “I’d love to add another offensive piece. I don’t think it’s a secret. We have a target. We have ideas.”

 

10:05 a.m. – a few links

Here’s the link to my story from today’s paper.

CJ Nitkowski wrote about the Mariners needing to add pitching for Fox Sports.

9 :30 a.m.

If you think I won’t continue to quote Anchorman while I’m in San Diego, you clearly don’t know me and my childish ways.

So this is is San Diego ….

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****

I may just stay.

*** The A’s and White Sox completed their trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and one-time pitching prospect Michael Ynoa to the White Sox in exchange for shortstop Marcus Semien and three prospects – starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, catcher  Josh Phegley and first baseman Rangel Ravelo.

Oakland will be a very different team this season.

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