NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jack Zduriencik was miffed by the characterization. And when the question was asked about it, he could not even wait for it to be finished to respond.
A national baseball writer had written that executives from opposing teams have labeled the Mariners “desperate” to acquire hitting.
Zduriencik shook his head at the assertion.
“That would be ludicrous to say we are desperate,” Zduriencik said. “To say we would like to have a hitter, of course we would. I’ve been pretty public. I don’t think I’ve hid that at all. We were last in the league in hitting, so why wouldn’t you want to add a hitter, but to say we are ‘desperate’?”
The Mariners have been linked to more than 20 hitters by either free agency or trade over the past few days.
The running joke is that, if you’re a hitter and you haven’t been contacted by the Mariners, you are either insulted or not very good.
The latest names were outfielder/first baseman Jason Kubel of the Diamondbacks and free agent center fielder Michael Bourn of the Braves. Add them to a list that includes Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, Yankees outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton and Royals outfielder Billy Butler.
Kubel hit .251 with 30 doubles, 30 homers and 90 RBI this past season with Arizona. The Mariners would have to trade for Kubel because he is under contract with Arizona. Seattle’s already been inquiring about Upton, so getting Kubel would be a less-expensive consolation prize.
Zduriencik met with Bourn’s agent, Scott Boras, on Tuesday. Bourn doesn’t fit the profile of what the Mariners have been looking for. He’s a leadoff hitter who hit .274 with nine homers, 57 RBI, a .348 on-base percentage and 42 stolen bases last season.
Bourn isn’t considered a major target for the Mariners. The meeting was more of Zduriencik’s due diligence to consider all possibilities.
It appears the free-agent hitters are waiting for the biggest prize, in this case Hamilton, to sign so the dominoes can fall after that first signing. It usually happens every offseason.
“There are some teams waiting on that big chip,” Zduriencik said. “And some teams are waiting for that chip to fall.”
Zduriencik is trying to maintain patience. They’ve met with Hamilton. They’ve talked with Swisher’s representation.
If there’s a stigma of desperation, Zduriencik seems intent on changing it so agents or opposing teams don’t get the idea they can fleece him in a possible deal.
“I’m not going to do something foolish, in my estimation,” he said. “If someone is sitting there saying, ‘I’m going to get an extra player from them ’cause they’re desperate,’ then they’re foolish. I’m not doing that. We have some pretty young, talented players. Yes, I’d like to add a bat. There’s no question, but there’s a cost and a risk.”
So what’s an example of a desperation move? Former general manager Bill Bavasi gave up five players, including Adam Jones, who has blossomed into an All-Star for the Orioles, for oft-injured pitcher Erik Bedard in 2008.
Don’t expect that to happen with Zduriencik.
“I can assure you this: We are not making a decision out of desperation,” Zduriencik said. “There are some nice pieces in the organization, and none of them are going to be moved out of desperation.”
But what about the need to add a hitter?
“If we walk away from here and we have what would appear to have done nothing, quite frankly, we did something — we’ve held onto our commodities,” Zduriencik said. “And we will continue the plan. I hope we can do something here. Maybe it happens a week from now or a month from now. If it doesn’t happen then, maybe it happens in spring training.”
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org/mariners