LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Their search for right-handed-hitting outfielders could bring the Mariners back to a familiar figure, as general manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledged Tuesday that the club is talking to free agent Franklin Gutierrez.
The Mariners declined a $7 million club option last month on a contract that would have kept Gutierrez with the team this season, but are willing now to talk about a smaller one-year deal with the oft-injured center fielder.
Gutierrez, 31, played just 173 of the team's 486 games over the past three seasons due to a variety of injuries and illnesses, many of which he's since attributed to an inflammatory condition called ankylosing spondylitis.
The 2009 American League Gold Glove winner believes he finally began dealing with that condition with medication after being diagnosed in midseason last year, but an attempt to play winter ball in Venezuela recently was canceled when he became sick again.
The Mariners obviously couldn't count on Gutierrez, but could bring him back on a low-risk salary and see how he performed.
Zduriencik continues pushing for a right-handed impact bat and the club has met several times with the agents for Nelson Cruz, one of the premier remaining free-agent outfielders. But the Rangers are interested in having Cruz return, and he's believed to have other pursuers as well.
Zduriencik told 710 ESPN Seattle on Tuesday that reports of Cruz turning down a five-year, $75 million offer from the Mariners were inaccurate.
Another oft-mentioned target for Seattle in the Winter Meetings rumor mill is outfielder Matt Kemp, who has six years and $128 million remaining on his contract with the Dodgers. Kemp was one of baseball's top center fielders when healthy, but played just 73 games last year and is still in a walking boot as he continues recovering from a broken ankle, one of the three injuries that led to time on the disabled list.
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.