Mariners unveil new slogan at luncheon
Club sees potential after changes in players and front office
SEATTLE -- A New Day. A New Way.The Mariners' marketing slogan for the 2009 season, made public for the first time on Thursday during the annual pre-Spring Training media luncheon at Safeco Field, underscores the amount of change the organization has undergone during the past year. Unlike a year ago, when practically everyone in the organization -- from executives to players -- talked openly about challenging for the American League West title, a more cautionary approach is being taken. There's a lot to be said about reality. "I see potential. I see things I like about this club," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "I also see things that need to be improved. From the ground level to the top, we need to improve the talent level in the organization." Nearly five months into his first big league GM job, Zduriencik has made changes inside and outside the front office that he believes will get Seattle back to the top of the AL West standings. There has been a 20 percent change in the 40-man roster since the end of the 101-loss season. There is a new amateur scouting director, new director of professional scouting, new special assistant to the GM for baseball operations and a new director of Minor League operations. "My promise to the fans is we are going to put a product on the field that they are going to be proud of," Zduriencik said. "Is it going to happen overnight? Or will it take some time? If things fall into place, some guys have exceptional years, and the right things happen here and there, it could happen sooner than later. "But I can't sit here and say we are going to be playing into October or November. I hope that happens. I would love to see that happen. But there has to be a degree of patience. [Fans] have to understand that there is a plan in place." The game plan is to build a solid foundation in the Minor League system through the First-Year Player Draft, make trades that have both short- and long-term benefits, and pursue free agents that fit the overall game plan. The eventual makeup of the Opening Day roster remains a work in progress. "To say we are finished right now is not the case," Zduriencik said. "We are exploring and trying to move forward. I am talking to agents and [other GMs]. You listen to what they have to say, but it takes two to tango. I would like go get a utility infielder, I would like to get an infielder that would compete for a starting job and push other guys. "Can we improve this team? Sure we can. I would like to add to the club and I don't think we're done tweaking. I would be open to anyone who wants to talk about what we think will help this organization. I'm not doing my job if I am not trying to improve this ballclub every day. That's why you keep the doors open." While nothing has been done so far this offseason to turn the Mariners into instant contenders, that is not to say the team that new manager Don Wakamatsu and his all-new coaching staff assembles during Spring Training won't be able to compete. "What we need to do is get this club healthy," Zduriencik said. "That is very, very important." The overall health of the club going into Spring Training is excellent, according to head athletic trainer Rick Griffin. The first of several speakers during the two-hour media session reported that all five players that had surgery last season -- Erik Bedard (shoulder), Adrian Beltre (thumb, shoulder), Mike Morse (shoulder), Jeff Clement (knee) and Bryan LaHair (hernia) -- are completely recovered and ready to go. "We also need to get players to play at their level of ability," Zduriencik added. "You hope a couple of players have exceptional years. Any club that moves forward, and takes it to the next level, has players that have good years. "If we are fortunate to have that happen to us, I think we are headed in the right direction." Zduriencik touched on other subjects, as well. On free-agent outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.: "It's difficult to comment on free agents. It's very difficult. I realize how much that [bringing back Griffey] touches home here. But you have to remove yourself from the situation and evaluate what is best for the ballclub. To get specific about any particular player doesn't serve us well and doesn't serve that particular player well. So, I would abstain from answering that question directly." On unsigned No. 1 Draft choice Josh Fields: "Nothing is imminent. I do think our desire is to have him, but again, it's like anything else, the two have to meet. We have our thoughts on where this should come in at and they have their thoughts. We'll see where it takes us. Other than the fact we would like to have him, to get into details would be awkward." On why so many free agents are still unsigned: "That's a good question. A lot of what's happening has something do with what's happening around the country right now. Everybody is standing back. Everyone is a little bit cautious right now. The other issue is the economics of the player's contract. I am sure we're in the same boat as anyone else who would like to bring another player or two in, but you have to agree on two things -- the dollars being spent and the length of the contract. I think some of this will begin to fall into place as we move forward, but in the next couple of weeks, players may have to settle for something they don't necessarily want to. That might be the reality we are in."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.