Mariners Insider Blog

WINTER MEETINGS 2008: Putz possibilities

Good morning from Day 3 at the winter meetings, I still have the shirt on my back and I still have my laptop, though it wasn't working so well last night so I didn't get to post the update after the Zduriencik meeting.

But my story that ran in today's paper has most of what he said in it along with reactions from J.J. Putz and Brandon Morrow to all that's going on.

Also, if you didn't get a chance, check out Larry's story on a surprisingly talkative Erik Bedard. It's got some interesting comments from the quiet enigma of a pitcher. General manager Jack Zduriencik seems convinced that Bedard is going to have a big year, because he will be healthy and because he's in the walk year of his contract.

OK, let's get to more J.J. stuff, since he seems to be the only player being openly coveted by other teams

First of all, let's start with the Tigers. It's unclear how the talks are going. The report of the Mariners requesting three players - Jeff Larish, Matt Joyce and another minor leaguer - seems to be pretty solid. The Tigers are hesitating giving up both players and would give up one or the other.

Here's Jon Paul Morosi's story outlining the possibilities and here is Lynn Henning's column wondering if giving up both is just too much. The Detroit News has a story saying that set-up man Fernando Rodney could possibly be the closer (although that might give Jim Leyland heart palpitations) and it also has an update on Larish and Joyce's progress in winter ball.

Another team that could make a late push for Putz is the St. Louis Cardinals. Zduriencik met with them yesterday and their GM, John Mozeliak, made it very clear they are looking for a closer according to stories from Matt Leach and Joe Strauss.

I talked with a few sources close to the team and the Cardinals are looking for two things - a closer and a starter - and they know that they will have to give up an outfielder to get at least one, if not both. The most likely candidate to be traded is Rick Ankiel. On the surface it would seem crazy to trade Ankiel, but his contract is up next season and his agent is Scott Boras. Ankiel, who will make $900,000 this season, will be looking for a large pay raise.

The Cards feel like they could give up Ankiel because talented prospect Colby Rasmus is ready and would slide into his spot along with Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker, who are under team control for a while still.

Ankiel is what the Mariners are looking for, a left-hander with power, and even better he could play center field, a position of weakness for the Mariners. He would be an upgrade both offensively and defensively over Jeremy Reed, and Seattle could go out and look for a left fielder and even resort to a platoon situation with Wlad Balentien and somebody else.

The other team reported to show interest was the Milwaukee Brewers. Zduriencik shot down a rumor from ESPN's Steve Phillips, who mentioned that Putz and first baseman Prince Fielder could be part of a package deal.

"Is that right?" Zduriencik smiling upon hearing that talk. "I wouldn't comment on if I would make that deal. We haven't talked about that. Honestly, there has not been a discussion about those two players related to each other."

Milwaukee needs a closer. We already mentioned that enduring Eric Gagne and the emotional roller coaster last season wasn't desirable. With CC Sabathia set to sign with the Yankees, the Brewers can now focus on picking up a closer and now need starting pitching since Sabathia and probably Ben Sheets won't return.

The feeling is that Zduriencik would be quicker to trade with the Brewers because of his familiarity with the team. The Brewers have said that outfielder Corey Hart and shortstop J.J. Hardy aren't being shopped but that doesn't mean they aren't available. However, both are right-handed bats. And GM Doug Melvin said yesterday he didn't see any real matches.

Zduriencik could make a push for maybe some minor league prospects like third baseman Mat Gamel and a few others from the well-stocked farm system.

So what is going to happen?

Really Zduriencik is in a position of power. He can ask for quite a bit in return, because he isn't set on trading Putz. He'd keep him if he felt there wasn't enough out there. The Tigers have been known to overpay if they really feel like they have to fill a certain need.

The longer Zduriencik waits and the more teams he talks to about Putz, the more willing the Tigers may grow to throwing in both Joyce and Larish. A trade for Ankiel seems intriguing, but it is only worth it if you re-sign him next season. And that might cost more than $10 million a year. You can't trade away Putz for a player that you might only get for one season. And the Brewers, well, who knows how his previous relationship with the team will affect those chances, but they seem pretty far off now.

Zduriencik said there's no anxiety to get anything done over the next few days, so this could move on into the coming weeks.