Zduriencik mum on rumored pursuit of Cano
Mariners general manager in discussion 'on a lot of fronts,' but won't specify
SEATTLE -- While reports persist that the Mariners are aggressively in pursuit of free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano, those rumors aren't coming from the club or general manager Jack Zduriencik.
Speaking on a pre-Winter Meetings conference call with Seattle-area reporters on Wednesday, Zduriencik declined to comment on whether the longtime Yankees standout was being targeted by the Mariners as they attempt to add offensive punch this offseason.
"Any time you're engaging or attempting to engage or have ongoing discussions or any hints of anything, you have to keep it in-house," said Zduriencik. "We have a lot of dialogue on a lot of fronts.
"You never know where any of these things are going to end up, but we've touched base with many free agents, both offensive players and pitchers. We're continuing to make our rounds and see where the pulse is on a lot of players. But to get into any specific player, I don't think that's fair right now."
The Mariners have been mentioned prominently in winter pursuits of top free agents the past two years -- Prince Fielder in 2012 and Josh Hamilton last year -- but wound up with neither. The Mariners never were that far along with Fielder, but Zduriencik pushed hard for Hamilton last December before the outfielder signed with the Angels.
Both Fielder and Hamilton wound up signing with teams that were scarcely mentioned in their pursuit in the Hot Stove rumor mill, which often is fueled by agents pushing to create a market for their clients. So whether Cano is legitimately interested in the Mariners remains to be seen, but several New York newspapers have reported that his representatives have been in Seattle in recent days.
Cano certainly would bring an impact bat that the Mariners desire, but he also could simply be playing Seattle up in an effort to move the Yankees off their reported seven-year, $170 million-range offer.
Cano's agents are pushing for something in the nine-year, $260 million range for the five-time All-Star, who turned 31 in October.
Zduriencik said he'd love to bring in two or three bats if he could, with the outfield one obvious priority, and is talking to pitchers as well in a market that is moving quickly even before officials from all 30 clubs gather in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Monday for the start of the four-day Winter Meetings.
"It's been a pretty aggressive market," Zduriencik said. "People have basically decided what they want to do and evaluated the market and went out and did what they wanted to do. It is a little early, but I've heard several people say they'd like to get things done even before we get to Orlando."
As for the Mariners being mentioned in pursuits of nearly all the premier free agents?
"The fact we're linked to a lot of people, well, we probably should be based on the work we've done," Zduriencik said. "We've touched base with a lot of clubs and free agents. That's what you have to do. And any time you make a call, word can get out through the agent or player or modern media, and all the sudden, you're connected to somebody. But it could be that there are five or 10 clubs that have called on that player.
"In the end, every player has his choice to make and they make it for different reasons. You keep doing your job and you'll land one of those players at the right time. And hopefully this is the right time for us."
Zduriencik has some financial flexibility, given Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are the only veterans beyond the arbitration phase of their contracts. That also opens the door for potential trades with teams looking to move high-salaried players, with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp being a potential example.
Zduriencik hasn't closed the door on the trade route, even if it would mean giving up some of his prized young prospects.
"You'd prefer not to, but you never know how it's going to play out," Zduriencik said. "You can't cross that bridge until you discuss very specific players. We do like the young core group of players and a lot of the arms that are here, but if you have the opportunity to make your ballclub better, you always have to keep the door open to discussion and see where it ends up. We're a club that has been where we've been in the standings. We have to do whatever it takes to get better."