As Meetings close, Mariners 'still talking'

As Meetings close, Mariners 'still talking'

As Meetings close, Mariners 'still talking'
DALLAS -- Jack Zduriencik came to the Winter Meetings with a specific shopping list, but the Mariners' general manager headed back to Seattle on Thursday afternoon with the same needs after four days at the Hilton Anatole Hotel yielded lots of talk but no done deals.

Zduriencik doesn't consider his empty shopping cart to be a setback, however. Not a lot of movement was made by many teams at the four-day gathering, where clubs exchanged more ideas than players.

While the Marlins tossed $191 million in contracts at Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell and the Angels stunned the baseball world with Thursday's deals for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, most teams did more table-setting than deal-doing. Even the Yankees were uncharacteristically quiet in this year's gathering.

"We're still talking -- I've still got conversations going," said Zduriencik, who feels things will start to heat up in the coming days as teams go home and finalize their options. "I figured it might be a little slower this year with a lot of big names on the market. That kind of got everybody's attention, and clubs are trying to tie those things in.

"But just in terms of overall [research], we laid a lot of groundwork here, and you don't know where it's going to end up. We won't know for the next few days as we continue to have conversations."

The acquisition of Pujols -- pending the completion of a physical -- by the American League West rival Angels had the lobby buzzing as the Meetings came to a conclusion.

"That's a very special talent they acquired and just makes it more difficult for everybody in the division," Zduriencik said.

Talk naturally turns to what will happen with slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. The Mariners have looked into Fielder's situation but like most teams are waiting to see just how crazy that market gets before committing too fully, despite reports earlier in the week that they were the leading contender.

"Nothing has changed," Zduriencik said of any potential pursuit of Fielder. "I said I thought it was overblown the other day -- all the front-runner status and all was a little bit unfair. As I've said all along, there's a threshold, a margin we've talked about. None of us know where this is going to end up.

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"You don't know how the signings here affect any other signing," Zduriencik said. "They may or they may not. But at the end, we're still building this thing. If we can add pieces, great. But if it gets to the point where it doesn't make sense for a lot of different reasons, then that's just the way it is.

"I don't think anything has changed. Just the fact we had so many people here, there were rumors and momentum. But some of that is created by outside entities."

Here's a summary of Seattle's week at the Winter Meetings:

Deals done: The Mariners didn't finalize any trades or free-agent signings. Zduriencik did fill one of his primary needs prior to arriving in Dallas, however, when he traded reliever Josh Lueke to Tampa Bay for catcher John Jaso.

The left-handed-hitting Jaso will provide needed depth behind the plate, where he'll compete with Adam Moore for backup duties behind Olivo. Jaso offers the potential of platoon help as a left-handed hitter who brings a .340 career on-base percentage to a team that needs help in that area.

Rule 5 Draft activity: Seattle used the third pick in the Major League portion of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft to select left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge from the Brewers. Luetge, 24, went 1-3 with a 3.13 ERA and three saves in 46 appearances with Double-A Huntsville in the Southern League last year.

Zduriencik was with the Brewers when they drafted Luetge in the 21st round out of Rice University in 2008.

Seattle didn't lose any players in the Major League portion of the Draft, but the Rangers selected outfielder Efrain Nunez off the Mariners' Double-A roster in the Minor League phase. Nunez hit .291 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 44 games for Class A Pulaski last year.

Goals accomplished: The addition of Luetge in the Rule 5 Draft adds one contender to the lefty reliever battle, but otherwise, Zduriencik is still working on most of his offseason wish list.

Zduriencik says lots of groundwork was laid and expects a lot of pieces to start falling into place in the coming days, but he noted that signings and trades all around baseball were unusually slow at this year's Meetings.

Unfinished business: The Mariners are still looking for a veteran starter to fit in as a fourth or fifth man in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas. They still might want to add a veteran situational lefty to the bullpen, as well as a backup shortstop or utility infielder who could step in for Brendan Ryan if necessary.

And, yes, they'd like to bolster the offense with a bat, most likely a designated hitter, since manager Eric Wedge feels Mike Carp can be an everyday option in left field.

GM's bottom line: "I think things could start to come together now that it's a little clearer picture. People depart, head home and reflect and then make phone calls back. Now it's decision time from both ends, the clubs and the players." -- Zduriencik

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.