The question Wednesday for Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik concerned a growing flurry of reports linking the club to the offseason’s premier free agent, second baseman Robinson Cano.
And no surprise, Zduriencik deferred comment on specifics.
“Anytime you’re engaging,” he said, “or attempting to engage or have ongoing discussions — even any hints of any kind of things — you have to keep it in-house.”
But Zduriencik left little doubt that the Mariners, armed with enviable payroll flexibility, are pushing hard to bolster a youthful club coming off four consecutive losing seasons.
“We’ve got a lot of dialogue going on, on a lot of fronts,” he said. “You never know where any of these things are going to end
up, but we’ve touched base with many free agents.”
That includes Cano, a 31-year-old who appears to be at a negotiating impasse with the New York Yankees. According to numerous reports, Cano’s agents met Tuesday with the Mariners.
At issue is whether the Mariners are willing to put together a sufficient package to tempt Cano to the Northwest and/or whether such a deal would force the Yankees to move past their reported seven-year, $160 million offer.
All indications suggest the Mariners are, on the eve of the industry’s winter meetings, positioned as the biggest threat to snatch Cano from the Yankees. The meetings start Monday in Orlando, Fla.
Several industry sources think the Mariners might be willing to bid $200 million over eight years in an effort to add Cano to a run-starved attack that ranked 12th among the American League’s 15 teams in scoring in 2013.
The Mariners have been linked to several other top free agents, including outfielders Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran. They are also seen as a strong possible trade partner in a deal for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.
Zduriencik is willing to acknowledge only a strong desire to add pop. Asked whether it’s fair to say the Mariners are seeking to acquire two impact bats, he said: “That’d be great. I’d love to add three.”
The Mariners appear to be well positioned for an offseason push, whether for Cano or other targets, after years of shedding payroll while simultaneously building a youthful core.
Estimates generally peg the Mariners’ projected 2014 payroll at less than $50 million. They opened last season with an $84.2 million payroll and, with new national TV contracts kicking in, payroll could top $100 million.
“(I) always felt there would be a time where we have to augment this club,” Zduriencik said. “I think we’re at that time.
“With the players you currently have on your club, what you’d love to be able to do is bring in some extra players. I think I have a lot of (financial) support.”firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners