12/10/08 8:12 AM EST
Zduriencik in no rush to make a move
Mariners' new GM willing to stand pat despite trade suitors
By Jim Street / MLB.com
Going into the final full day of the annual gathering of club executives, J.J. Putz is still a Mariner. So are Jarrod Washburn and Adrian Beltre with no indication any of them will be traded anytime soon."I think you have to take it as it comes," Zduriencik said on Tuesday. "You can't force anything to happen. Things we have done may lay groundwork for something that could happen as we move forward. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to do something here just because we're all gathered together." Zduriencik and members of his baseball operations staff talked to several clubs on Tuesday -- including the Tigers, Brewers and Cardinals. All three teams are pursing a closer, but there was nothing to come out of the meetings that led Zduriencik to believe a trade for Putz could be imminent. In fact, the GM sounded like he is leaning towards keeping Putz around for awhile. "I would be extremely happy about having J.J. as our closer," Zduriencik said. "I have talked to our medical team and walked away extremely happy on what I was hearing about how hard he is working and how determined he is to have a good year. "He's moving forward, expecting to be our closer. There wasn't anything said that would remotely make me think this guy is not going to have a very good year and I have expressed that to our staff. He's our closer right now and unless something dramatic happens, that is going to be the case. "It's our job to fill the other spots on this club that need to be filled and if we go through this season and years to come with J.J. as our closer, and he was the same guy as two years ago, I think everybody will be very happy." The 31-year-old Putz was 40-for-42 in save chances during his 2007 All-Star season, but went just 15-for-23 last season, largely because injuries kept him out of action and on the disabled list for more than a month. Question is, can the Mariners improve significantly next season and beyond without having to trade an established player like Putz? Can you fill other needs without having to trade Putz? "You never know," Zdureincik said. "You have a lot of things that can be done to improve a ballclub that lost 101 games. But I go back to what I said at the beginning and I really believe this: There are players who underachieved and others were injured last year. We need the injured players to get healthy and the players that underachieved need to be prepared to achieve their level of ability and, in some cases, you hope they overachieve. "There will be young kids, like [Jeff] Clement, who will get a chance to play this year. We added [Russell] Branyan to this club, and other guys will be given a chance to come in and make the ballclub. "That being said, the potential loss of Raul [Ibanez], if that ends up being a loss, there is a void that has to be filled. How we do that? We are working very hard to figure that out. Whether it's [Ibanez] or it involves somebody else." Other organizations have offered left-handed hitters for Putz, but a match that would make the deal work for both teams has not yet been found. The search for more offense continues. "Today was a regrouping day, if you will," Zduriencik said during his media briefing at the end of the day. "We decided to step back and listen to what people have to say. Every day is a productive day, but sometimes it becomes the ground floor for something to take place. Today was just a discussion day." It seems like the Brewers and Mariners would be ideal trading partners. Zduriencik was Milwaukee's scouting director until last month, so he is familiar with Brewers players. He has a closer and a couple of young pitchers that could be available in exchange for some big boppers, which Milwaukee certainly has. "I talked to Doug [Melvin] after the [General Managers] Meetings and I guess [it] has to do with my familiarity with Doug and those players," Zduriencik said. "I know that organization as well as anybody, but our conversation was more of a friendship, courtesy kind of thing." Zduriencik said an ESPN report that the clubs were talking about a deal that featured Putz and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, was not accurate. "We haven't talked about that," he said. "Honestly, there has not been a discussion abut those two players related to each other." Melvin, meanwhile, said he doesn't think the Brewers and Mariners match up and declined to say whether he has any interest in Putz. The Cardinals are believed to have mentioned Rick Ankiel in an offer for Putz, but that could not be confirmed. All Zduriencik would say is the Cardinals did ask about Putz during the meeting. Left field remains to be the Mariners' focal point at these meetings. The impending loss of Ibanez to free agency would take a huge chunk out of an already run-challenged offense. "You look at all options when you're looking at how to fill your voids," Zduriencik said. "You look at trades, you look at the free agent market and you look at other ways, hoping you can come up with a 'surprise' player somewhere along the way; someone like what Gabe Kapler did for us in Milwaukee last year or what [Brad] Ziegler did for Oakland. I have our staff looking long and hard about that." With the start of Spring Training still more than two months away, Zduriencik appears at ease playing a waiting game -- which could be the motto of these meetings. "I get the sense that clubs are letting this unfold," he said. "I haven't gotten a sense that anyone is forcing anything. The clubs I have talked to have options they are exploring and they will make decisions that best suits their organization. I haven't gotten the feeling that in the next 48 hours we are going to be out of here so they have to do something." Zduriencik feels the same way.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.