The winter meetings are days away, and the rumors are beginning to churn, so the always reliable tabloid New York Post is reporting that it's "learned' closer J.J. Putz is available.
For two months now, that's been fairly well-known in Seattle, if only because – after the Seattle Mariners lost 101 games last season – nearly everyone on the team is available.
"We've got a couple of keepers, but I'm not going go name them," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "I'm not anxious to move any of our players, but if a team calls with a proposal, I'll listen."
The Post anxiously insisted the Mariners and Mets will talk during the winter meetings in Las Vegas.
Zduriencik will probably talk with, oh, 25 teams or so. Some he'll contact, some will contact him. The Mariners aren't without talent, and teams will ask about Ichiro Suzuki and Ryan Rowland-Smith, Adrian Beltre and Brandon Morrow, Yuniesky Betancourt and Felix Hernandez.
And yes, J.J. Putz.
On the free agent market there are closers looking for huge multi-year deals, specialists like Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood and Eddie Guardado. Putz, in contrast, will make $5 million next season, then has an $8.6 million club option in 2010 – with a $1 million buyout.
Zduriencik is prepared to be tested in Las Vegas next week by GMs hoping to get a steal for prospects, but they're likely in for a surprise.
For one thing, Zduriencik and his new front office team know the minor league systems as well as anyone in the game – and they've targeted the young players they have interest in.
As shown with the Russell Branyan signing, the Mariners these days know what they want and will make a fair-markert offer to get it.
There's no clearance sticker on anyone in the organization.
Putz is available, not because the Mariners want to move him but because they'll listen to offers for him and every other player on the team.
Can Zduriencik trade Ichiro? No.
Could he trade virtually anyone else? Yes.
Putz is available in part because players Seattle would love to move – Carlos Silva, Kenji Johiima, anyone? – are impossible to trade
So the Mariners will go to Las Vegas, meet with a few agents, talk .to every club they can and try to continue the remodeling of a franchise.