Jack Z exploring complementary pieces for Mariners

GM wants to add, but discusses rationale behind avoiding another blockbuster deal

Jack Z exploring complementary pieces for Mariners

SEATTLE -- General manager Jack Zduriencik said at Mariners FanFest that he expects more roster moves are coming in the final weeks of the offseason, but he again sounded as if the club is looking at complementary additions rather than a blockbuster signing from among the remaining free agents.

Zduriencik said Saturday that he'll be meeting with new team president Kevin Mather in the next few days to talk about things, even as conversations with agents and other clubs are ongoing regarding potential trades or signings.

"We need to do a few more things," Zduriencik said. "I'd like to add a couple more things to help us."

Mather was named the new president on Friday, and he officially replaces the retiring Chuck Armstrong on Feb. 1. Zduriencik said he already has a good working relationship with the long-time executive vice president of finances, as both previously lived in Wisconsin and shared similar backgrounds.

"Kevin has a good perspective," Zduriencik said. "He really, really understands numbers. He's been involved in a lot of things with Major League Baseball economically and different committees and things. Being our financial officer, he's got a good grip on it. It'll be good as we move forward to sit down and continue to have a lot of conversations, not only about this year, but next year and the year after, etc."

Mather has already said his biggest job will be providing Zduriencik with the resources to field a winning team, and that there is some room in the budget to continue adding, even this offseason.

"He and I will sit down in the next couple days and kind of hash out some things in terms of what his vision is and where we're at and maybe where we need to go," Zduriencik said. "But we're not going to do anything foolish. If the right scenario is there and it makes economic sense and talent sense, then that's something you engage in.

"But there's an awful lot more that goes into it than just saying you maybe have more money to spend. That's good if you spend it wisely, but just to spend it to spend it would be foolish, and I think all of us understand that. If the right opportunity is there, then I'd have to present my case and get permission to do it."

After chatting with reporters, Zduriencik then talked with fans in the FanFest forum and reiterated that the biggest remaining free agents might not be good investments at their current asking prices. The Brewers finalized a deal with right-hander Matt Garza for four years at $50 million on Sunday, with a fifth-year option at $13 million.

Zduriencik would like to add a No. 3 starter to his rotation, but he doesn't sound enamored with the current asking prices of Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, the other two premier pitchers on the market. Santana, 31, had a strong year for the Royals last year with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings, but he was 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA the previous year for the Angels and has been up and down throughout his career.

Jimenez, 30, had a big bounce-back year for the Indians last year with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts, but he posted ERAs of 5.10 and 5.40 the previous two seasons.

Zduriencik didn't mention either Santana or Jimenez by name when asked about adding a No. 3 starter, but his answer clearly indicated the club will continue pursuing lower-profile free agents. The Mariners just signed former Brewers first-round Draft pick Mark Rogers to a Minor League deal, and they are believed to be in the running for former Twins starter Scott Baker, who pitched well for the Cubs in the final month last season after returning from Tommy John surgery.

Baker was 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA for the Twins from 2005-11, missed all of 2012 with elbow issues and then posted a 3.60 ERA in three late-season starts for the Cubs last year.

"We're reaching out and are going to bring some players to Spring Training that aren't big investments, but are veteran players that might have a chance to fill a role and take some pressure off these younger kids," Zduriencik said. "I don't think we're going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going. It just doesn't make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies. That's a pretty big risk, and I think we have to look at this in the big picture."

Zduriencik told the fans that was the reason the Mariners didn't get too far into the pursuit for Japanese free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who wound up signing a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees.

The Mariners already signed Robinson Cano for 10 years at $240 million, and they have six years and $150 million remaining on Felix Hernandez's deal. Those are two of the 11 largest contracts in MLB history, and adding a third blockbuster long-term deal could limit Seattle's roster flexibility for the foreseeable future, so Zduriencik will be looking more to supplement his biggest stars at this point.

"The numbers were going through the roof," he said of Tanaka's situation. "We did a lot of our internal work and felt it would go there. At the end of the day, the Yankees were not going to get outbid. That's the world we live in, the economics of baseball. For the Dodgers to bail out and the Yankees to continue tells you.

"We've made two major investments here in the last two years with Felix and now Robinson. To do that again would have been real challenging. And in the end, the numbers could have gone up. If we made that offer, who knows what the heck the Yankees would have done after that? We beat them once. I don't think they wanted to get beat twice."

The other big free agent still available is outfielder Nelson Cruz, and Zduriencik was asked about the former Rangers outfielder as well.

"I've had a lot of discussions with Adam Katz, his agent," Zduriencik said. "There's an economic factor tied to that, as well as losing your Draft pick. Would I like to have him here? Absolutely. I'd love to have Nelson Cruz in this lineup. But how much do you have to pay him, how many years is it going to be and are you willing to lose another Draft pick? Those are the things you have to factor."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.