By Shannon Drayer
While everyone else on the baseball planet seems willing to talk about Robinson Cano and the Mariners, general manager Jack Zduriencik understandably is not.
"That's the nature of this call, to try and give you as much of an update as I can without saying anything," he said with a laugh.
Zduriencik and the Mariners' contingent will head to Orlando, Fla. this weekend to take part in the meetings. Just what will be left on the board at that point remains to be seen as a flurry of signings and movement has already taken place. Zduriencik said that he and others are not surprised by the aggressive market, saying that early on it was apparent that teams had a good idea of what their needs were and what they wanted to do.
"At the general managers' meetings we heard in a lot of discussions that they would like to get it done before they get to Orlando," he said.
As for what he would like to get done with his club, Zduriencik repeated what has been reported multiple times, that he is looking for a couple of bats, a starting pitcher and perhaps an arm for the bullpen.
Regardless of what gets done or doesn't get done on the free-agent or trade markets, Zduriencik still points to the young core of players as the key factor to any improvement with the Mariners.
"I do think there is a learning curve there and I hope we get to the point where these kids realize they're big leaguers and they are more prepared than they ever have been," he said. They all got their feet wet last year or the year before. Even though it is a real young group of kids, I hope that the fact that they have experience takes them to the next level."
The young players will need help, however, and free-agent help is becoming more and more scarce with teams preferring to lock up their big bats rather than let them reach free agency. This year's market was light. Next year's will be worse. Zduriencik has indicated in the past that when the time was right he believed the organization would support him in a quest for a big-impact player. It appears that time is now.
"When we got here it was a goal to get to where they have young, inexpensive players throughout the lineup, and I think we have accomplished that goal," he said. "I have also thought there would be a time we have to augment this club, and I think we are at that time. I think I have a lot of support. It made an interesting winter, led to a lot of interesting conversations and we will see where it ends up."
The door is also open for trades, but reluctantly.
"You would prefer not to but you never know how that is going to turn out," Zduriencik said. "You don't know how you are going to cross that bridge until you have discussions that get very specific in terms or players. We like what we have but you have to always keep the door open."
He has both currencies needed in this sport – dollars and young players. He would rather give up the former. The question now, is who will take it?