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Most interest is centering on Putz


Most interest is centering on Putz
LAS VEGAS - If you are running a pool as to which Seattle Mariners player is most likely be traded this week, closer J.J. Putz would have to be the favorite, while third baseman Adrian Beltre and left-handed starter Jarrod Washburn would be, as of Monday, long shots.

Of course, all of this could change with one productive phone call. Welcome to the circus that is Baseball's winter meetings.

Through the day Monday, it was Putz who garnered the most serious interest from teams needing a closer.

"Several," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said when asked how many teams have contacted him about Putz.

Much of the talk around the Bellagio Resort & Casino, when it came to Putz, revolved around the Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians and possibly the St. Louis Cardinals. But Zduriencik hinted that there may be more teams interested.

"In terms of Putz, there's a lot of clubs in Baseball that need that guy," he said. "Sure there have been inquiries about J.J. We have talked about J.J. with other teams. But we haven't made a determination about what we are going to do because that's a very important position for us and a lot of clubs in Baseball."

But how important will it be for an offensively challenged squad that may rarely be in a save situation next season?

Putz could be traded for a left fielder to fill the spot being vacated by free agent Raul Iba?ez.

"My estimation if anything happened on that front, then we would have to consider that it is something that helps this organization short term and long term - as any trade would be," Zduriencik said.

At no point has Zduriencik said he won't trade Putz. He even told the pitcher as much when they talked by phone last week after Putz's agent relayed his concerns about trade rumors.

"I said, 'J.J., I can't make any promises right now,' " Zduriencik said. " 'I can't control people calling me and I can't control people making inquiries about you. There's nothing I can control about that. That being the case, J.J., you're a desirable player for a lot of clubs including our own, and again, as a general manager, I have to listen. But I'm not saying anything is going to happen.' "

Detroit could be a logical fit for Putz. He is a native of Trenton, Mich., and played at the University of Michigan. Also, the Tigers have a surplus of young outfielders - in particular Matt Joyce and Jeff Larish.

"We have a void in left field," Zduriencik said after Iba?ez declined the Mariners' offer for salary arbitration and became a free agent.

If Putz is dealt, that would leave the Mariners' closer spot vacant. A year ago, Brandon Morrow would have seemed likely to slide right into that spot. But the conversion of Morrow to a starter late last season changes things. Zduriencik said Morrow is a starter and will show up to spring training to compete for a starting job. He also said personnel moves down the road can change every player's situation.

"I do think that any type of player moves, whether it be signing someone, or trading someone, or bringing someone in, whatever you do to improve your ballclub, has a domino effect, no question about it,'' Zduriencik said. "I think . . . our job is to put the best talented players on the field in the position where they can have the most success. How we determine that is an ongoing process that will remain unanswered until we roll into spring training and realize exactly what this ballclub is going to look like.''

So far, Putz is the player drumming up the most interest from other teams. Beltre and Washburn, who are thought to be available for trade, have not drawn as much interest.

"As far as Jarrod Washburn, I have had no discussions or active trade talks to move him at this period of time," Zduriencik said.

He acknowledged the same about Beltre.

"No one has really talked to me about our third baseman," Zduriencik said. "People have asked questions about him in passing, but I've had no one come to me, and say, 'I want to sit down and talk to you about acquiring your third baseman.' "

But that could change.

Happy with catching

The Detroit Tigers acquired Rangers catcher Gerald Laird for a pair of minor league pitchers. The news was something of a jolt to the Red Sox, Reds and others looking for catching help.

Ageless Baseball wisdom that teams can never have too much catching seems to ring true with the Mariners, who have a wealth of it, yet Zduriencik is in no real hurry to trade any away.

"There have been some people who have inquired about our catching," he said. "As you well know, it's a very difficult position to fill and we currently have three at the big-league (level) and we have some desirable guys at the minor league level. But I am not inclined to move any of our young catching."

Apparently, there are no inquiries about Kenji Johjima, who the Mariners would gladly trade, but Zduriencik seems firm on keeping Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson and Adam Moore.

"You never know what will happen, or what someone will present to you, but at this moment of time, I am not actively shopping nor do I have a desire to move any of our young catchers," he said.

Bedard healthier

Erik Bedard was at the Bellagio on Monday, but he wasn't there to mingle at the winter meetings. He was in Las Vegas to see Dr. Lewis Yocumb for a checkup on his surgically repaired shoulder.

Bedard was cleared to begin throwing, which should put him on track to be ready for spring training.

"It sounds like it," Zduriencik said. "Every indication points that way. But as you go forward with this, sometimes there are things that happen that cause a little setback, but in terms of the steps to be ready, he is in good shape right now."

Bedard spent some time with new manager Don Wakamatsu.

"Don spent some time with him last night and they had a great time," Zduriencik said. "He is very excited."

A healthy Bedard should be exciting to the Mariners.

"The trainers and doctor think he's on track," Zduriencik said. "It leads us to believe he is going to come in and hopefully be the guy that he was when they traded for him."

Short hops

Zduriencik confirmed that he has had more conversations with Ken Griffey Jr.'s representatives, but labeled them "soft, mild" and "far from concrete." . . . Iba?ez is drawing strong interest from the Chicago Cubs, but manager Lou Piniella said that Iba?ez would most likely have to play right field because Piniella doesn't want to move left fielder Alfonso Soriano. . . . Zduriencik praised the value of utility player Willie Bloomquist, but didn't commit to making him an offer. . . . The Mariners signed three players to minor league contracts, including first baseman Chris Shelton, who hit 10 home runs in April 2006 for the Detroit Tigers. Zduriencik called it a "low-risk" move to add depth, but said Shelton will get his opportunity in spring training to make the big club. . . . Knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, who was optioned to Triple A Tacoma last week, has not decided whether to accept the assignment or become a free agent. He has until Dec. 12 to decide.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483

blogs.thenewstribune.com/Mariners


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 10, 2008

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