Mariners aren't in any hurry to make trades at the deadline
For many major-league teams, this is the week of soul-searching. They have to decide, once and for all, if they are contenders or pretenders. For a team like the Mariners, the ambiguity has disappeared.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
For many major-league teams, this is the week of soul-searching. They have to decide, once and for all, if they are contenders or pretenders.
The deadline for making trades without needing waivers looms on July 31 — one week away. This is traditionally the time for general managers to get off the fence, put oneself squarely in the camp of buyers or sellers, and heat up the deal-making.
It can be an agonizing call for those teams hanging on the fringes of contention. With the wild card as a fallback, and relative parity in MLB, even mediocre ballclubs can conjure up scenarios for making a run.
But for a team like the Mariners, the ambiguity has disappeared. Their collapse has left them firmly aligned with the cadre of MLB also-rans — unwelcome company like the Royals, Astros, A's, Orioles and Cubs — to whom the contenders will be flocking at the deadline, trying to pick clean of useful players.
That's not to say that general manager Jack Zduriencik is willing to proclaim the Mariners as sellers, even though it's no secret that numerous veterans could be in play as trade fodder.
"The buyer/seller thing — it's a little more than that," Zduriencik said Friday in a phone interview from Boston. "I'm trying to accumulate talent. We're doing that throughout the organization. From the first day I got here, I said we had to accumulate talent. If we can do something that helps us add talent as we move forward, in the right situation, I'm ready to go."
Zduriencik added that he's "made and taken phone calls, as any GM would do. There's people talking, sniffing, if you will. I'm sure it will move forward this week, get more concrete. I'm not going to do something for the sake of doing something. I'm not out marketing or shopping. If something works to help both clubs, fine. I've done my work like I'm supposed to do."
Chone Figgins has recently been linked to the Reds, but the Mariners would no doubt have to pick up much of his remaining contract (which includes $17 million owed in 2012 and '13). Adam Kennedy, Jack Wilson and Jamey Wright can all be free agents after this season, so they are obvious candidates to be dealt.
Pitchers Brandon League and Jason Vargas, both of whom will be arbitration-eligible next year, and Doug Fister, who will still be under club control, could also be dealt if the M's opt to use their pitching strength to augment their dire need for offense.
Asked if he anticipated making a move, Zduriencik said, "That's a hard question. Sometimes you don't think you're going to do anything, and at the last second something falls together that makes sense. You do your job and listen to what people have to say."
He indicated, however, that Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda are in the "untouchable" category.
"The great thing about Felix and Pineda is that when they go out, you have a chance every time. When you get really good pitching, you're in every game," he said.
"That's why this thing hurts so much. We have a part of our club that's pretty doggone good. That's why we've been able to be in so many games, why we've been competitive. It's just been that one pitch, one play, one at-bat that changes a lot of things."
Zduriencik said that last month, when the Mariners were hanging close in the AL West race and people were clamoring for the M's to add a bat, there simply wasn't a deal to be made.
"That was my opinion," he said. "So many clubs were figuring out what they were and where they were at. Quite frankly, a lot of clubs would like one more bat, but no one seemed to come up with one. That big bat doesn't seem to be out there at a reasonable cost. It's not as easy as saying, 'We need a bat. Let's go get a bat.' Great. Who's giving one up? Lots of clubs who are doing well are looking for a bat."
The Mariners were doing well enough until suddenly, in a stunning two-week stretch of nonstop losing, they plummeted to the basement. Yet Zduriencik is doing his best to remain positive and focus on the progress he sees.
"It hurts, don't get me wrong," he said. "It hurts every guy in the clubhouse and on the staff. But I go back to what I said: If we weren't competitive, we wouldn't be feeling that pain. It's because we're close.
"Doggone it, we're going to get this thing turned around. And it's going to get turned around quicker than people think."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
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