Zduriencik reports 'pretty busy' day
Expected to be aggressive, Mariners part of many rumors
INDIANAPOLIS -- The tubs of snacks and beverages laid out for the staff members in the Mariners' executive suite still looked untouched at 5 p.m. PT when the media met with Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik for a talk to wrap up Day 1 of these Winter Meetings.
Monday was not a day for idle chatter and petty socializing. Or, as Zduriencik most likely understated it while settling back comfortably into a plush recliner, "We were pretty busy all day."
Zdurencik has already proved to be an alchemist of sorts, taking a team that lost 101 games in 2008, rebuilding it into an 85-game winner in 2009 and now being in the position to enter this winter's marketplace as one of the big leagues' true aggressors. Since he has been in Indianapolis, he has taken on a new hobby with an high difficulty level: juggling.
With big decisions already made, looming within hours and on the radar for his near future, Zduriencik is standing over a table full of dominoes waiting for the right ones to fall.
"Player moves affect each other," he said. "You make one, and that could have an effect on a second one you make. Timing is the key to everything you do."
The timing of his first move, the imminent signing of free-agent third baseman Chone Figgins, should come to fruition sometime Tuesday after Figgins took a physical in Seattle on Monday. Zduriencik wouldn't comment on Figgins, but multiple reports have the team agreeing with the versatile infielder-outfielder on a four-year deal worth $36 million with a vesting option for a fifth year.
Then there's Adrian Beltre, who manned the hot corner for the club for the previous five seasons. Beltre declined arbitration, which means the Mariners will save at least $12 million in next year's salary and receive a supplementary sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft if he signs with another club.
Beltre still could sign with the Mariners, but it's unlikely, so Figgins seems set for third base and the team can now concentrate on filling needs in starting pitching and left field, at first base and possibly with a right-handed designated hitter.
Zduriencik said he met with a lot of teams and agents all day, which means he has been pursuing deals on the free-agent and trade fronts. It also means he most likely continued to talk to Alan Nero, the agent for Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, about a contract extension, and Danny Lozano, the agent for free-agent first baseman Russell Branyan, whom the Mariners have expressed an interest in bringing back.
Down in the ever-hectic lobby of the downtown Marriott, plenty of names found themselves in the same sentence as the word "Mariners" when it came to rumors.
Outfielder Jason Bay, starter Rich Harden, first baseman Nick Johnson, and former Mariners such as catcher Miguel Olivo and starter Joel Pineiro were floated as possible free-agent signings for Seattle. Meanwhile, on the trade front, one baseball source indicated that the Mariners might be in the mix for a trade for Detroit outfielder Curtis Granderson.
When asked whether he got close to any deals or left any meetings excited for an impending transaction, Zduriencik said, "It's possible."
"We still have to go through a process," he added. "I think there were good talks. The discussions we had today could be very productive."
Among Zduriencik's other discussions was a conversation with former Padres GM Kevin Towers, who is at these Meetings seeking an advisory position with another club and is believed to also be in talks with the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets.
Zduriencik -- who has a long relationship with Towers (he hired Towers in the early 1990s as a cross-checker for the Pittsburgh Pirates while serving as that club's scouting director) -- gave the impression that he might have already offered a position to Towers, who led the Padres to a World Series and four division titles in 15 years at the GM post (1995-2009).
"There's always a role for quality people," Zduriencik said. "Especially someone who's done what he's done. There would be a lot of real positives to that. I certainly had talks with him. I have a lot of respect for Kevin."
And at the end of a nonstop first day of his second Winter Meetings, Zduriencik said he hoped he had gained a little more respect for and from the other GMs he's still developing working relationships with.
"I don't know how they feel about me," he said with a smile. "But we can get to know each other a little bit."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.