DALLAS -- As talk continued to swirl at the Winter Meetings of Seattle being one of the players in the Prince Fielder pursuits, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik downplayed a report Tuesday that his team is the current leader for the free-agent slugger.Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, now an ESPN and MLB Network commentator, created some stir by tweeting that the Mariners were "the front-runners" at the moment, with the Brewers, Cubs and Blue Jays all wanting shorter-term deals. But Zduriencik disagreed with that stance Tuesday evening when meeting with several Seattle media members in his hotel suite here at the Anatole Hilton as the second day at the Meetings wrapped up. "I don't want to talk about Prince, but I would say the wording of that is misleading," Zduriencik said. "Because you don't know, on any free agent, I have no clue how many clubs are in on any free agent that we're talking to. "Even today, the guys I've sat with tell me they've got five clubs interested in their player or players," he said. "And in any case, how do you know that? Another ballclub is not going to tell you. As I've said with all of this stuff, I'd prefer to be low key on any discussion. My style is not to build up a big fanfare. Sometimes these things get legs of their own.
"To say anybody is a front-runner, I don't know how that would have come out."Zduriencik said he ran into Bowden in the hotel lobby earlier in the day, but said the two exchanged nothing more than hellos. Though Zduriencik doesn't want to publicly discuss any pursuit of Fielder, his comments clearly acknowledge that the club is indeed talking to Fielder's agent, Scott Boras. Zduriencik said prior to the Winter Meetings that he'd "go down that road" in at least looking into Fielder's price, but has declined to address those efforts since arriving. Though the Fielder situation is curious in the lack of public pursuers at this point, it seems inevitable that a bidding war will break out at some point for the 27-year-old first baseman. For now, the field remains relatively quiet. Then again, Boras has yet to arrive at the Meetings and begin pumping up the publicity. Like any team, the Mariners would love to have Fielder in their lineup. Seattle ranked last in the American League in scoring the past two years and could use a thumper in the heart of its young lineup. The question remains, how much money and how many years will be required to ultimately land the big man? Zduriencik has noted there is a definite threshold at which "how much" would become "too much." But until the price tag and market become clearer, the Mariners appear to remain in the hunt. Zduriencik did say he has no firm offer out for any free agents at the moment. "I have a better feel for some things," he said. "But do I have an offer on the table for any player? No. We've talked about some parameters with a couple guys and gave our thought process on some things, but have I come out and said, 'This is what I'm offering you?' No." The Mariners are continuing conversations on several fronts, however, including trade avenues. "The sense I have from a lot of clubs is they're juggling a lot of balls and looking different directions for different needs," Zduriencik said. "Many clubs are talking to other clubs about the same things and trying to see what matches. You never know when something clicks and somebody says, 'This is the thing we want to do.'" Zduriencik said the free-agent market also seems to be in a holding pattern as agents weigh options. "It seems to be that way," he said. "We've seen a little [movement]. Everyone comes to the Winter Meetings thinking they're going to get everything done here. But that isn't always the case. There's no timeframe, necessarily."