Zduriencik talks about Winter Meetings’ plans

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik reiterated Thursday that he has some payroll flexibility as he heads to the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., next week, but he also noted that the team is in a “unique spot” with the number of quality young players knocking at the door in the organization.

My sense is the Mariners are looking to make several deals — either free-agent signings or trades — that would supplement the youth movement already underway. How much they can do depends, as always, on which veterans might be interested in coming to Seattle and how much opposing teams are looking for in trade returns.

They’re not going to jump in Miami Marlins’ style and try to win the winter. Josh Hamilton is not in the picture. But they will be aggressive in trying to add a veteran bat or two and perhaps a starting pitcher.

From a position standpoint, it would make the most sense to add a corner outfielder with some thump to fit into the middle of the lineup. But Zduriencik keeps talking about being flexible and open to adding the best help, wherever that might fall.

There’s a reason the Mariners have targeted Mike Napoli as a potential free agent signee. He’s the type of right-handed veteran hitter they covet, with the versatility to help both behind the plate and at first base.

I asked Zduriencik on Thursday about the catcher position, specifically, given that John Jaso and Jesus Montero are returning and Mike Zunino is on the horizon. Interestingly, he started talking about first baseman Justin Smoak in his answer, not in terms of catching,  but how pieces might all fit into the puzzle.

“Obviously Montero did a lot of DHing and took some ground balls at first last year,” he noted. “With Jaso and Montero and Smoak — and even Mike Carp — we’ve kind of got three positions for them with DH, first base and catcher.

“On given days, Montero can catch. Obviously everybody needs a break occasionally. As much as some people think Justin turned a corner last year, there’s a challenge there for him. We’d like for him to take September and add to that. But in regard to your original question, right now we’ve got two catchers, one left-handed and one right, and we’ll see where that goes.”

Where it goes will start to come into focus next week in Nashville. Zduriencik is flying to Tennesseee on Saturday and most of the Mariners brass will arrive Sunday. The Meetings will take place from Monday through Thursday.

Not all deals have to take place in Nashville, but the groundwork will be laid and action will pick up with everyone under one roof at the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort. Zduriencik said Wednesday’s signing of B.J. Upton by the Braves could have “a domino affect” on getting things rolling among free-agent outfielders.

Will those dominoes tip toward the Mariners? We shall see. I’ll be in Nashville to cover all the action, so you can follow me here on the blog as well as on Mariners.com or for the very latest on Twitter at @GregJohnsMLB.

1 Comment

I am really interested to see how next week plays out. I really think this is the first year that Zduriencik has enough freedom and money to really make a few splashes. Kind of interested to see what trade rumors start to fly on Monday.

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