SEATTLE -- First-year Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who wants to create "natural competition" at virtually every position, took another step in that direction on Wednesday when he acquired versatile infielder Ronny Cedeno and left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson from the Cubs for pitcher Aaron Heilman. "When you have competition, that's a good thing," Zduriencik said. "I expect both of these guys to come in and compete for a job." The swap occurred two days after Heilman participated in FanFest at Safeco Field. He returned to his Chicago-area home on Monday, bolstered by the reception he received in Seattle and an assurance from club officials that he would compete for a spot in the rotation during camp.
Not so fast. A trade that had been discussed for several days was finalized when Cubs GM Jim Hendry -- vacationing in Rome -- agreed to include Olson, whom the Cubs had recently acquired from the Orioles, in the deal. "From our standpoint, it was a trade that fit," Zduriencik said. "Today's trade allows us to acquire a young, left-handed starting pitcher with Major League experience that we will control for five seasons. At the same time, by adding Cedeno, we have a player who is very versatile, gives us protection and depth and can compete for a job at second base and shortstop immediately." Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and second baseman Jose Lopez were put on notice -- perform or move aside. They are penciled in as the primary double-play combination again this season, but little with this team is etched in stone following a 101-loss 2008 campaign. "Our No. 1 goal is to continue to accumulate talent in our organization while doing everything we can to compete in 2009," Zduriencik said during a conference call. "My goal is for Cedeno to come in and push these guys, give it his best shot, and let the pieces fall where they may." Cedeno, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on Monday, was the Cubs' version of Willie Bloomquist -- the most versatile player on the roster. Manager Lou Piniella used Cedeno at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and center field. "Versatility is a good thing," Zduriencik said. "Versatility with productivity is even better." Cedeno batted .269 with 12 doubles, two home runs and 28 RBIs in 99 games. His overall numbers with the Cubs during his four years with the club: .252 batting average, 13 home runs and 88 RBIs in 329 games.
The 25-year-old Olson comes to the Mariners via Baltimore.He ranked fourth among American League rookies last season in starts (26), was fifth in wins (9) and innings pitched (132 2/3) and sixth in strikeouts (83). He posted a 5-1 record and 3.86 ERA in his first eight Major League starts, which included a victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field on Aug. 1. Olson started and ended the season with Triple-A Norfolk. The 6-foot-1, 204-pounder made his MLB debut in 2007, starting seven games for the Orioles, who selected him in the "sandwich-pick" round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He was the 48th selection overall. "I knew him in college [Cal Poly], and I hope that in his mind-set, he is coming here to win a spot in our rotation," Zduriencik said. "If he does that, it's a good thing. We promised Aaron an opportunity to compete for a spot in the rotation, so why wouldn't we give [Olson] the same opportunity? This guy has made 23 Major League starts, so there is no reason he can't come in and compete for a starting job." The Mariners already have a starting corps that includes right-handers Felix Hernandez, Brandon Morrow and Carlos Silva along with left-handers Jarrod Washburn and Ryan Rowland-Smith. "I would like every player on the roster to know they are going to be given their best shot," Zduriencik said. "We're going to run our best guys out there." Seattle acquired Heilman from the Mets on Dec. 10 as part of the three-team 12-player trade that sent closer J.J. Putz, setup reliever Sean Green, and outfielder Jeremy Reed to New York. "I want to thank Aaron for his professionalism," Zduriencik said. "We were excited to acquire him and sorry to trade him, but I felt this was a deal that we couldn't pass up. "I talked to Aaron early this morning, and he felt a little bad about [the trade]. He was looking forward to being here. But he lives in Chicago, grew up as a Cubs fan and went to Notre Dame." While Wednesday's trade landed the Mariners a young arm and an athletic infielder, the team still lacks the slugger Zduriencik wants to acquire. "We have conversations going," he said. "It's no different today than a week ago. We're talking to free agents and other clubs, but when things happen is hard to say. Will it happen? We don't know, but we're making sure that we're exhausting every option. "A lot of clubs feel good where they are right now, while others are trying to tweak here and there. The market is still being defined, and I am no different than other guys that have their ears wide open."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.