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If compelled, Jack Z. willing to deal top prospects

If compelled, Jack Z. willing to deal top prospects

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If compelled, Jack Z. willing to deal top prospects
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said he doesn't want to give up any of the top young talent the team has accumulated in recent years. But he acknowledged on Monday that any of the club's premier prospects would be available if the right trade offer comes up -- and he sounded like a man getting close to making a deal.

The Mariners have developed one of the best crops of prospects in the Majors during Zduriencik's four years, and he knows those are the chips that might help land a premier offensive player this offseason.

"No one is an untouchable," Zduriencik said on Monday morning at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, which is hosting the Winter Meetings. "There's a few. ... Felix [Hernandez] would be a guy you don't want to trade. We've talked about that. But in terms of young guys who have yet to prove what they are, that's a wonderful commodity to have.

"But if you can look at a scenario where you take a weakness and make it a strength, that's something you have to entertain. You can't sit there and say, 'I'm not moving anybody.' That would be foolish. You have to entertain any opportunity to make your club or organization better."

The Mariners have four of the top 50 prospects, according to MLB.com's rankings, with pitchers Taijuan Walker (4) and Danny Hultzen (8), shortstop Nick Franklin (29) and catcher Mike Zunino (44) leading a strong group that also includes pitcher James Paxton at 74, as well as a strong group behind them.

"I don't have a desire to trade these guys," Zduriencik said. "I'd be tickled pink to continue this plan and let them all become big leaguers for us and see what they're going to be. But you can't shut the door on an opportunity to improve your club for the short term and the long term."

The Mariners are looking at various ways to upgrade their offense, but a trade might be the most viable route. Catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, one of Seattle's prime free-agent targets, agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox on Monday.

Zduriencik said he was meeting with numerous agents and teams on Monday as the Meetings got under way. Clearly, the Mariners are interested in making a move to augment the young group they've been building over the past two seasons.

"If a veteran presence was available that could come in and take a little pressure off these kids and put his arm around them, that would be very desirable," Zduriencik said. "But every acquisition has a cost. What is that cost, and what are we willing to give up?

"Everybody knows we need a bat. But we said we're going to build this thing for the long term, and we haven't deviated from the plan. Would we, if the right scenario occurred? Yes, we'd entertain it. But we'll see. We'll see where this takes us."

The Mariners considered Napoli because they liked his bat, but catcher doesn't appear a high priority otherwise. Zduriencik said the club is mostly interested in a defensive-minded veteran backstop to supplement Jesus Montero and John Jaso.

"Right now, you're going to have the two guys, Montero and Jaso, catch," Zduriencik said. "You've got your left-right combo -- that's nice. Both guys have their skill set they bring to the table. Neither guy is what you'd call a defensive receiver. Both are offensive catchers.

"We'll have our ears open, certainly, to see how the right type of catcher would fit. You don't want to take away their ABs right now just for a defensive catcher, because our needs are offense. But I do think we have to address a defensive possibility if it exists."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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