So far this offseason, there has been one truly big free agent signing, as Jonathan Papelbon went to the for four years and fifty million dollars. The next-biggest free agent signing was for far less than half that commitment. In other words, things have been pretty slow, just as we should've expected them to be, no matter how many different big-name free agents the take out to dinner. But the winter meetings are coming up in less than a week - the second winter meetings, the important winter meetings - so we'll see things intensify in a hurry.
It's with that in mind that Greg Johns caught up with Jack Zduriencik. Johns asked Zduriencik a number of questions about his plans for the offseason, and Zduriencik was his usual forthright, unequivocal self. Zduriencik issued a bunch of responses, but the response that will generate the most attention is what he had to say on the matter of Prince Fielder.
Those who badly want Fielder in Seattle will focus on:
There's no question we could use a big bat in the middle of our lineup...We'll go down that road and experiment and see where it ends up.
The complete context, at least as provided by the article:
That really depends...There are so many factors there and no one knows where that number will end up. As much as you might have desire to go down a path, the length and dollars tie into that.
There's no question we could use a big bat in the middle of our lineup, but where is your limitation and threshold? We'll go down that road and experiment and see where it ends up, but until things get more definitive, we'll just have to wait and see.
What Jack Zduriencik basically said:
We would like to have Prince Fielder at a certain cost, and we will see if he exceeds that cost.
At its heart, it's another nothing message. I guess it's not a completely nothing message, since it does show that Jack Zduriencik isn't not interested in Prince Fielder, but it wouldn't make any sense if Jack Zduriencik weren't interested in Prince Fielder. Of course Jack Zduriencik is interested in Prince Fielder. Prince Fielder is an outstanding and available baseball player, and thecould use more outstanding baseball players.
Here's what it is to be a general manager, at least when it comes to trying to build a roster: you give to every player a certain value. If the player becomes available at or below that value, you get him. If he doesn't, you don't. Zduriencik and the Mariners are willing to go to some publicly unknown length to sign Prince Fielder, but what remains to be seen is whether that length is sufficient. I suspect it is not, given the Mariners' limited available resources and their likely reluctance to guarantee too long a contract, but Fielder's market is still developing, so there's no knowing his price just yet. That's what Zduriencik means when he says "until things get more definitive."
Pay no attention to the extremes. It wouldn't make sense for the Mariners to ignore Fielder entirely. It also wouldn't make sense for the Mariners to try to sign Fielder at any cost. Reality lies in between - it pretty much always lies in between - and we'll just have to see if the Mariners' degree of interest overlaps with Fielder's desires. When you think about it in terms of the Mariners presumably having to out-spend all other suitors to sign him, it doesn't seem like it's in the cards, and it doesn't seem like it should be in the cards. But there's still a lot that isn't known, so, maybe. We'll know a lot more about this situation, and many other situations, in a week and a half.