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Mariners still in line for slugger Fielder

The winter meetings end today with the Mariners in play for free-agent slugger Prince Fielder. (Associated Press)
The winter meetings end today with the Mariners in play for free-agent slugger Prince Fielder. (Associated Press)

DALLAS – Megadeals began dropping on the final full day of the baseball winter meetings as the Mariners tried to gauge what the competition for Prince Fielder will soon look like.

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said he engaged in talks on a number of fronts Wednesday, but had yet to make a formal offer to Fielder or any other free agent. Instead, he watched the Miami Marlins reportedly lose out in a bid to land first baseman Albert Pujols, while signing free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle and trying to sign pitcher C.J. Wilson as well.

Should the Marlins land both pitchers, it’s possible they would run out of resources for a Fielder offer and be unable to fuel a bidding war for the slugger. The Mariners were said to be “front-runners” for Fielder just 24 hours earlier and could remain that way when the meetings end this morning after the Rule 5 draft.

“I think you have to gauge the sense of urgency, too, that the other side has,” Zduriencik said of getting free-agent deals done. “With all respect to them, offers have a lot to do with timing. And sometimes putting an offer out too early may not be the best thing for you moving forward.”

In Fielder’s case, nobody really seems sure where the market is headed. As day turned to night at the Hilton Anatole hotel, it remained unclear just who would be joining the Mariners in attempts to land the first baseman.

Reports had the Mariners meeting with representatives of Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, on Tuesday night. Zduriencik said Wednesday it’s important to get a sense of what prospective free agents think about Seattle.

Zduriencik was asked about the type of pitch he makes to free agents as the GM of a team that’s lost 196 games in two seasons and is not expected to compete for a playoff spot any time soon.

“A lot of it is opportunity and fairness,” Zduriencik said. “And explaining to them where we’re at and what we’re trying to do. Creating this foundation that’s going to sustain itself.”

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong declined to comment when asked whether Zduriencik has at least as much payroll room to work with as last year. A year ago at the winter meetings, Armstrong told reporters Zduriencik could go as high as his 2010 payroll of about $94 million.

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