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Mariners still in hunt for big bat

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik spent the final day of the baseball winter meetings assuring fans that his first move isn’t expected to be his last.

The Mariners came to an agreement Wednesday with former Gonzaga star and Seattle-area resident Jason Bay on what’s expected to be a one-year, six-figure contract that won’t be officially announced until sometime after the meetings end.

The Mariners do not expect to be active in this morning’s Rule 5 draft since their 40-man roster is already full and they will already have to drop a player to accommodate Bay.

Zduriencik said he remains in the hunt for a bat, and the Mariners continue to be tied to Nick Swisher, a free-agent right fielder and first baseman, along with center fielder Michael Bourn. But with free-agent prices climbing and teams demanding a premium in young players via trade, Zduriencik raised the idea he might not land a premium bat this winter.

 “At the end, if you can’t get the offensive piece that you would like to have, or it doesn’t fit, or the cost is too high, then you still try to do things to make the club better,” Zduriencik said.

On the Bourn front, his agent, Scott Boras, said he met with the Mariners here and feels his speedy, sure-gloved client is a strong fit for spacious Safeco Field. Boras said he expects to have further talks in the days and weeks ahead.

“I expect that we’ll have the usual follow-up,” he said. “We know where they’re at and they know where we stand, but I imagine we’ll continue talking.”

Earlier in the day, in his pre-scheduled media session with reporters, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he expected big things out of Franklin Gutierrez and a number of younger players.

One of those is first baseman Justin Smoak, who had a strong final month in an otherwise dismal season. Wedge echoed Zduriencik in saying the team will likely add another player capable of playing first base in order to have a backup plan should Smoak falter.

“We gave him plenty of space last year to figure it out and ultimately had to send him out (to the minors),” Wedge said. “He came back and ultimately, we saw what we wanted to see the last four or five weeks. Now, it’s up to him to take it on this year from day one and understand that there has to be a level of consistency for him to be able to start each and every day.”


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