The Winter Meetings are set to start next week and the Seattle Mariners are going in looking to deal, according to GM Jack Zduriencik. The M’s focus will be on landing a run-producing bat for the middle of the lineup that they have long been missing.
For the fourth straight season, Seattle finished last in the American League in runs scored. They’ve already announced that they will move in the fences at cavernous Safeco Field, but they would like to also add a bat that could take advantage of the closer porch. Zduriencik has said the team is looking to increase their budget from last season, which ended up around $83 million.
The most obvious spot to add a bat would be in right field, where the M’s will look to replace Ichiro Suzuki‘s production with some of the $18 million that is now off the books. However, Zduriencik isn’t limiting his search to just corner infielders.
“Our target is to try to do something to add offense. If it’s a corner outfielder, that’s great. If it’s a different position, we’ll have to make some decisions on how the lineup will look. I think we have a degree of flexibility if we can get the right piece.”
While the M’s are open to spending money, Zduriencik does not want to go all in on a single free-agent, saying “this isn’t a scenario where there are unlimited dollars.” He also confirmed that Seattle would not be participating in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes, but instead focusing on adding a number of quality players to help the offense.
The team has met with free-agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, whose versatility and veteran presence would make him an interesting match in Seattle. Zduriencik is also open to trades, which is the route he took last season to bring catcher Jesus Montero to the team from the New York Yankees.
The M’s won’t have blinders on to other offers, however, as Zduriencik said that the team would definitely be interested in adding another veteran starter to the rotation if the right piece came available. While the team has a bevy of young arms looking to compete for a spot in Spring Training, Zduriencik would love the luxury of having a proven arm to prevent having to promote one of the young pitchers before they’re ready.
Zduriencik already solidified the top of the rotation when he signed Hisashi Iwakuma to a two-year extension to be the third starter behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. Adding another starter would round out the rotation pretty well and leave just the fifth spot up for grabs among youngsters Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer.
The M’s philosophy to building the team around their young nucleus hasn’t changed and they aren’t going to sell the farm to rent a big bat for a year or two. But don’t expect Zduriencik to sit on his hands at the Winter Meetings next week as Seattle looks to be aggressive this offseason to add pieces that will make them competitive next season.