Mariners Insider Blog

Winter meetings live blog -- day one

Greetings form the Gaylord Convention Center here at Opryland. No, I haven't seen any country singers yet. The only cowboy I've seen is Tracy Ringolsby.

Let's get to it.

You can cross Mike Napoli off the list of possible hitters coming to the Mariners. Napoli just signed a 3-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox.

I'm not sure Napoli was the best fit. His body seems to be breaking down at a faster rate than mine.

So who does that leave? Well, there's Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche, Cody Ross.

If those names aren't really inspiring to you, the Mariners could go the trade route. And I think  that's what they will do. Yesterday evening, the news broke from Tim Brown of Yahoo that James Loney was signing with the Tampa Bay Rays. How does this affect the Mariners? Well, the Rays were searching for offense and help at first base, the Royals were in discussion with the Rays about their glut of young pitching.  Kansas City is desperate for starting pitching. But with the signing of Loney, that means a deal for Butler is a lot less likely. And that helps the Mariners, who are interested in Butler or left fielder Alex Gordon and do have pitching to trade.

Here's his segment ...

Here's a link to his radio spot ...

Shortly after Zduriencik did this radio interview, he came and talked to us for a few minutes. Need proof?

There were a few interesting nuggets from the meeting ...

With the exception of Felix Hernandez, there is no other player on the Mariners roster or in their system that is "untouchable."  In the search for hitting, Zduriencik knows that you have to give up talent to get talent. I think Zunino would be labeled untouchable, but by MLB Rules, he can't be traded. But that means James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin are available.

"No one  is an untouchable," Zduriencik said. "If you look at a scenario of where our weaknesses are and you can make it a strength, I think that's something you have to entertain. You can't sit here and say I'm not going to move anyone. That would be foolish. You can't shut the door on an opportunity to improve your club for the short term or the long term."

With Napoli off the board and questions still surrounding the defensive ability of Jesus Montero and John Jaso, Zduriencik will look at veteran catchers. That doesn't mean he will go after AJ Pierzynski. My guess is that he will look at veteran back-ups - think Guillermo Quiroz - who are solid defensively.

"Right now, we'll have Montero and Jaso catch," Zduriencik said. "Both guys have their skill set they bring to the table. Neither guy is what you would call a defensive receiver. Both of them are offensive catchers. We'll have our ears open certainly to see how the right type of catcher would fit. You don't want to take away their ABs right now just for a defensive catcher. Our needs are, quite frankly, offense. But I do think we have to address a defensive possibility if it exists."

One thing that has been mentioned is Zduriencik's contract status. The two year extension he signed is up after this season. No word of another extension has been mentioned by the Mariners management. Lame duck status can lead to very bad decisions - the kind that are made to save your job. Remember Bill Bavasi's final year? But Zduriencik said he won't fall into that trap.

"I can't do that," he said. "I don't want to chase that. I was brought here for a reason at the time. I was brought here for my skill set - building an organization and bringing in players and trying to get this thing going. Player development and scouting has been what I've done. You stay true to who you are.

"You always keep the organization's best interests at heart and I'm going to do that. If they would like for me to be here for a long time, I'd love to be here a long time. At the end of the day, it's not the decision I make. It's those above me that make it. We want to build this thing the way we are doing it. If we can augment it, we will. But I'm not going to chase my tail and do something that is not in the best interest of this city, this organization, this fanbase, despite the fact that there might be some people that wish I did it yesterday. I can't do that because it's not the right thing to do. If we cut this thing off right now, this organization will suffer for years."Some thoughts on the Royals as trade partners ...

The Royals are desperate for starting pitching. The Mariners are desperate for hitting. That's a lot of desperation there -- like the dateless a week before the prom.

The Royals have hitting (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon). The Mariners have pitching (Jason Vargas, Erasmo Ramirez, Hultzen, Paxton and Walker). So there is a match in that way.

And there was this ...

A little history on this ... back in 2007, the Royals tried to trade Butler to the Mariners in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt - straight up. And then GM Bill Bavasi declined.

To be fair, Butler was a bad-bodied first baseman, who was being projected as a hitter at the big league level, but hadn't really proven it. Betancourt had plenty of potential defensively while still being a free swinger. Now, Butler is a somewhat better-bodied DH and sometime first baseman that can really hit. And Yuni? Well, we all know how that worked.

Butler could help the Mariners. He's coming off his best season. He hit .313 with 29 homers and 107 RBI and an .858 OPS. Those numbers came playing half of his games at Kaufman Stadium in KC - a place that's almost as unfriendly to hitters as Safeco.

Heck, the Royals even scouted Paxton during the Arizona Fall League.

So this works right?

To dig a little deeper ... the Royals would like to have pitching that could help them now. They have young arms like Danny Duffy, Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura and Jake Odorizzi, who are a year or two away. Right now, it would be a stretch to say that any of the Mariners' "Big three" could help.

Really the more viable trade chip is Ramirez ... not Vargas. Ramirez is younger, cheaper and, frankly, better.

But Ramirez won't simply be enough for the Royals. The Mariners would have to add someone like Franklin. Once thought to be the shortstop of the future, Franklin is looking more like a second baseman at the major league level because of questions about his arm strength and range. He played second base only in the Arizona Fall League. The Royals need a second baseman. Johnny Giavotella was supposed to be their second baseman of the future. But he has failed to hit in two different call-ups. Most scouts believe Franklin will hit at the big league level. One scout called him Dustin Ackley-lite - whatever that means. But if the Mariners are able to acquire Butler, something like Ramirez and Franklin and maybe a lower tier player might be a fit. But that's just a guess.

Before you go out and buy a Butler jersey ... there are some drawbacks. He is owed this over the next three years: 2013:$8M, 2014:$8M, 2015:$12.5M club option ($1M buyout). That could be a detractor. Some people question his body style (far from a Greek god) and if he could stay healthy over the next three years. And there's the fact that he's really only a DH. He can play first base. But you can't play him there every day. Defensively, he's average at best and you put him at risk for injury.

So what would you do?

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