Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik joined The Steve Sandmeyer Show Wednesday afternoon and discussed a number of topics. Steve and I asked Zduriencik about their newest player — left-hander Mike Kickham, acquried earlier in the day from the Chicago Cubs — and about their level of aggressiveness from this day forward in terms of continuing to try to improve the roster.
In terms of Kickham’s role, Zduriencik said “you always would like the guy to be a starter… we’ll look at him as a starter and we’ll see what happens.”
Kickham employs a low-90s fastball to go with a slider, curveball and changeup. He was sixth-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2010 — the same draft the M’s snagged both Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
I asked Jack about the shortstop position and he confirmed it would be a competition at the position this spring and said “it’s possible” that both players begin the season on the Opening Day roster as infielders. Infielders, not Chris Taylor at shortstop and Brad Miller in the outfield. He did not say, however, that Miller would not move off shortstop, but clearly they want both player battling it out this spring, and likely into the regular season.
When asked about how aggressive the club is being at this stage in the offseason in terms of adding more significant pieces, Zduriencik said he took a call from a club very recently and those talks involved a player described as one with few years of control remaining and dollar attached. The other club was asking for young talent in return.
Clearly there is no match on those terms — perhaps that player is Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who has not performed well and is owed $61 million guaranteed over the next two years, including an option year for 2017 or a $10 million buyout.
“A lot of that (adding more pieces) ties into budget,” Zduriencik said in direct response to the question. “A lot of it ties into what’s available.”
The way I read all this is Zduriencik has a budget with which to play and he’s probably up against it now after adding Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith and extending Kyle Seager. But they won’t close the door on a deal they like if the trade makes sense or the financials make sense long term. This doesn’t mean they make any more significant deals, but it certainly doesn’t mean they won’t or will be handcuffed outside of such a move by the budget.
Zduriencik also noted that skipper Lloyd McClendon likes Jesus Sucre quite a bit and that a veteran backup costs money that they haven’t been willing to take on up to this point — another statement that suggests they are right up against their preferred budget, barring the opportunity to add a significant piece in a deal that makes sense for the long haul and isn’t shortsighted or take too much away from the projected 25-man roster.
Sounds like the plan will be for Sucre to play twice a week, which is about 50 games. That’s an ideal number for the M’s and Mike Zunino’s well-being late in the year.
The price for catching is pretty big — see: Hundley, Nick, for example — and the M’s aren’t willing to pay for it. Tough to blame them. Hundley, or Geovany Soto, for 50-60 games (you aren’t sitting Zunino more than that) isn’t worth the millions these types are getting on the open market right now.
A few other things I took from the conversation:
- Zduriencik knows he has bullets that teams want (i.e. Walker, Miller, prospects), prefers to keep them for obvious reasons, but has yet to hear any kind of proposition that makes sense. But he’s open to it if a club wants to part with something significant that the Mariners desire and need to take the next step.
- Zduriencik clearly respects and employs the thoughts and opinions of skipper Lloyd McClendon.
- They’re open to bringing in another Joe Beimel this season (which may be Beimel himself — still a free agent).
Listen to the entire interview (about 10 minutes long):