SEATTLE -- Jack Zduriencik never has liked the idea of being pigeon-holed into the Trade Deadline notion of "buyers" or "sellers." The Mariners' general manager prefers looking at the deadline as another opportunity to improve the club through whatever means possible, and has both bought and sold in the same seasons in the past.
So expect the Mariners to be active in trade talks as the July 31 deadline nears -- with a veteran left fielder seeming the most logical place to upgrade -- but don't try to pin Zduriencik down on some predetermined definition of his approach.
"I don't really want to get caught up in that," Zduriencik said of the buyer-seller debate. "What I will say is if the right situation presents itself, we're wide open. We've had dialogue and will do what we think is best for this organization."
Last year, the Mariners were clearly out of the American League West chase by July in what turned into a 101-loss season and indeed were "sellers" in dealing ace Cliff Lee to Texas in the final months of his contract and picking up four young prospects in Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson.
Smoak already is the Mariners first baseman, Beavan and Lueke have pitched for the big league club this season and Lawson was traded to the Indians for Aaron Laffey, who has been a key bullpen piece.
But Zduriencik also acquired power-hitting veteran first baseman Russell Branyan in midseason, looking to help his club in the short term even though Branyan was on a one-year deal.
Similarly in '09, Zduriencik picked up veteran shortstop Jack Wilson in a July 29 trade with Pittsburgh even though the club was 7 1/2 games out of first and not many expected the Mariners to be "buyers" at the time. But Zduriencik felt Wilson's defense and remaining two years on his contract made him a smart addition for the present and future.
"You evaluate everything on its own merit. I'm not going to make a move just to make a move," Zduriencik said. "You have to get something that makes sense -- like how long you'll have a player, the contract you're assuming, what kind of player you have to give up. It's not cut and dry that I'm going to do this or that. You just never know."
The Mariners currently have an obvious need with their struggling offense. The club exceeded expectations in the first half, staying in contention in the American League West despite the lack of bats, thanks to one of the league's best rotations and a surprisingly solid bullpen.
Zduriencik would like to upgrade and has brought up several rookies in an effort to help, with Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Carlos Peguero and Greg Halman all getting playing time. Adding a veteran or two in the right spots could make sense, but the Mariners looked at this season as a learning and building process under new manager Eric Wedge and might not want to block the path of their best youngsters.
Similarly, Zduriencik won't likely give away too much young talent for rent-a-player situations unless the club feels any acquisition truly has a chance to make a difference this year.
The Mariners do have several veterans of their own who could be moved. Wilson has lost his playing time this season to Brendan Ryan at shortstop and then Adam Kennedy and Ackley at second base, but remains a strong defensive player in the last year of his deal.
Designated hitter Jack Cust, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent in the offseason, has also seen his playing time dwindle after a slow first half. And infielder Chone Figgins, with two years and $17 million remaining on his original four-year deal, didn't hit in the first three months and now finds himself mired on the bench.
So even while the Mariners seek veteran help in the right spots, they've got a few of their own who could be dealt as well.
"I think people are still feeling things out," Zduriencik said. "Everybody wants a bat or pitcher. Every GM has done their homework. But so many clubs are still in it or trying to get to a certain point, they're all looking for the right deal and I'm not sure everybody has seen it yet. Things will pick up."
When they do, don't be surprised if Zduriencik gets involved. He's shown willingness to wheel and deal in the past. And if he finds something he feels will help the Mariners get better -- whether for now or in the long run -- he won't hesitate to pull the trigger.