Window closing for Mariners, but talk of improving roster still wide open

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comFebruary 12, 2014 

PEORIA, Ariz. — There’s a “window” yet remaining, according to general manager Jack Zduriencik, for the Seattle Mariners to make another major offseason roster addition even as they prepare for their first official spring workout.

“There are still plenty of good players out there,” he said Tuesday prior to his departure for the Dominican Republic to take part in the opening ceremonies for the organization’s new academy in Boca Chica.

“But every club has restrictions for where you are at this point in the year. It isn’t often easy for a club to say, ‘Give me $10 million more or $15 million more.’ It just doesn’t always work like that.”

Even so ...

“There’s probably a window to do something,” Zduriencik acknowledged. “We’ve had dialogue with so many of the free agents out there since the general managers’ meetings in November…

“We still have that ongoing. We’ve still having conversations, but it does get to a point where the years and dollars are going to be factors.”

While Zduriencik, club president Kevin Mather and other club officials spend Thursday in Boca Chica, the Mariners will hold their first official workout for pitchers and catchers in Peoria at their year-round complex.

The first full-squad workout is Feb. 18.

The Mariners remain strongly linked by industry sources to free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, a Dominican native and friend to second baseman Robinson Cano, the Mariners’ prize offseason signing.

Zduriencik laughed and quickly parried a question regarding the possibility he might make a recruiting visit during his upcoming trip.

“You never know,” he said. “I know Robinson is going to be there (for the opening of the new academy). He’s going to be part of the festivities. That will be nice, and he wants to be part of it.”

Zduriencik pointed to signing Cano as one of several moves designed to upgrade a 71-91 club, but he stopped short of saying he was satisfied with the roster as it now stands.

“I don’t think anybody anywhere ever says, ‘Boy, am I really satisfied,’ ” he said. “You’d always like to do more. Everyone would like to do more, but you also have to be realistic on how far you can go.

“Are we going to go any further? Are we going to do other things? We’ll certainly have conversations going.”

M’S CLOSE ON 2 VETERANS

The Mariners’ search for a veteran to fill a role in the middle of their rotation now appears likely to include left-hander Randy Wolf and right-hander Zach Miner.

Both are close to reaching minor league deals that include an invitation to big-league camp, which opens Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to the Mariners’ renovated spring complex.

Wolf, 37, and Miner, 31, each have a history of elbow problems. Wolf missed last season while recovering from a second Tommy John surgery; Miner is still seeking to regain his form after missing the 2010 season.

“We’re going to create competition,” Zduriencik said. “We’re going to give them a chance. They have track records. ‘Make this club.’ That’s the challenge. There are no restrictions.”

The club is seeking a veteran — at least one — to serve as a bridge in their rotation from All-Stars Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma to prospects such as Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.

The top candidate for that role appears to be right-hander Scott Baker, another recovering Tommy John patient signed last month to a minor league deal. He was 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA for Minnesota from 2005-11.

Wolf is 132-117 with a 4.20 ERA in 376 games over 14 seasons with six clubs. He was a combined 5-10 in 2012 with a 5.65 ERA in 30 games for Milwaukee and Baltimore.

He previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005.

Miner, 31, is a veteran of five big-league seasons, including four with the Detroit, where he was 25-20 in 157 games as a swingman from 2006-09 before suffering an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

He spent last year in the Philadelphia organization, primarily at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he was 5-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 27 games, including 12 starts.

Miner will make $750,000 if he makes the big-league club, and the deal includes a June 15 opt-out clause if he’s in the minors.

RODNEY UPDATE

The status of new closer Fernando Rodney for the start of official workouts — plus that of his two-year deal for $14 million — hinges on a still-pending physical examination.

That exam, a routine part of all contracts, won’t take place before Wednesday. It’s uncertain whether the results will be available before the Mariners hold their first official workout Thursday for pitchers and catchers.

Rodney, 36, was 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA last season in 68 games at Tampa Bay while converting 37 of 45 save opportunities. He and the Mariners reached agreement Thursday on a two-year deal.

SHORT HOPS

The new academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, is a 24-acre complex that includes three full-sized fields and housing for 80 prospects in addition to coaches and trainers. ... Take this as, perhaps, the definitive statement that the Mariners no longer view one-time top prospect Jesus Montero as a catcher: He isn’t scheduled to report until the full squad arrives. ... Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. is currently in Cuba on a cultural and sports exchange program promoted by the Educational Alliance Travel agency in Boston. “Baseball is big in my country, and this is a big island,” Griffey told The Associated Press. “It’s the little things we can do to help each other. (An exchange of this type) has a great significance.”

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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