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Zduriencik says Mariners not in Hamilton chase

While there has been speculation that the Mariners would be a potential pursuer of free agent slugger Josh Hamilton, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik indicated Friday night that his club isn’t targeting the five-time All-Star outfielder.

The Mariners looked into Hamilton’s situation and have had conversations with agent Mike Moye, but Zduriencik doesn’t see a likely match in terms of the years and dollars the 2010 AL MVP will be seeking.

“At the end of the day, when you gauge the market, you have to be realistic about where it will end up,” Zduriencik told MLB.com. “And there’s a strong possibility that one will exceed where we’re at.”

So rather than wait and watch Hamilton’s market play out over what could be a drawn-out process this winter, Zduriencik said the Mariners will look elsewhere to beef up their offense. Seattle has some payroll room and a corner outfield spot open after trading Ichiro Suzuki last year. Ichiro was making $18 million of the Mariners’ approximate $85 million payroll in 2012.

The Mariners have already announced their intention to move in the outfield fences at Safeco Field next year, which should help bolster an offense that was last in the American League in runs and home runs despite ranking fifth in the league in both those categories on the road.

Seattle is building around a young nucleus, but would like to add a couple veterans to the mix. Zduriencik said he expects to be able to do that, either through trades or free agency. But Hamilton doesn’t figure to be part of that equation.

“You have to be realistic about how you’re going to allocate your dollars,” Zduriencik said. “Some of these things drag out and if you’re sitting there waiting on one chip, other chips in front of you might go away and you end up with nothing.”

Here’s my full story after talking with Zduriencik.

– Greg Johns

Mariners still shopping after dealing League, Delabar

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik announced the trades of former All-Star closer Brandon League and right-handed reliever Steve Delabar moments after Seattle beat Toronto on Monday night and he might not be done dealing just yet.

League was sent to the Dodgers for a pair of prospects, while Delabar went to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames..

Thames is currently in Triple-A and having a big year, but has spent parts of the past two seasons with Toronto and will join the Mariners on Tuesday. Expect him to replace Carlos Peguero, who was packing his bags post-game and likely is headed back to Tacoma after struggling as Ichiro Suzuki’s fill-in following his trade to the Yankees.

Peguero has hit just .146 and struck out 22 times in 41 at-bats. Thames, 25, hit .257 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 510 at-bats over the past two years with Toronto.

As for the two prospects in the League deal, outfielder Leon Landry is a 22-year-old putting up big numbers in Class-A ball. He’ll report to the Mariners’ High Desert team. And right-handed pitcher Logan Bawcom is a 23-year-old reliever who has 20 saves and a 2.03 ERA while splitting time between the Dodgers’ A and AA teams this season.

What might be left for the Mariners?  Starters Kevin Millwood and Jason Vargas could be available in the right scenarios and catcher Miguel Olivo presumably is being shopped as well as a veteran in the final months of his contract and having lost much of his playing time to Jesus Montero and John Jaso.

“We have conversations going on,” Zduriencik said. “You don’t know where it’ll lead from here. But we’ll see. We’ve been working on these other trades for a while and this is where we settled [on Monday night].”

– Greg Johns

Mariners’ League still in mix as deadline nears

Mariners reliever Brandon League’s name continues to be mentioned prominently in trade rumors as we approach the last 24 hours before MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline — which is 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

League, 29, will be a free agent at season’s end and Seattle is in a seller’s position, sitting 10 games under .500 and 14 games out of first place in the AL West. The right-hander’s name has been linked to talks with the Dodgers, Giants, Angels and White Sox, but Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik plays things close to the vest and most of his previous trades — including last week’s deal of Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees — came with no advance warning.

The same was true last December when Michael Pineda went to the Yankees for Jesus Montero, as well as last year’s trade deadline deals that sent Doug Fister to the Tigers and Erik Bedard to the Red Sox.

All that is certain now is that Zduriencik is exploring the market for League, a durable veteran whose 181 appearances since the start of 2010 are the most of any American League reliever. League gave up three hits and three runs in Seattle’s 7-6 win over the Royals on Sunday, but has generally pitched well since losing his closer’s role to Tom Wilhelmsen in late May. Since then, he’s posted a 2.96 ERA with 27 hits, 8 runs, 7 walks and 14 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.

Overall he’s 0-5 with a 3.63 ERA and nine saves this season after saving 37 games in 2011 when he earned his first All-Star berth. League has about $1.8 million remaining on this year’s $5 million deal.

The other two pitchers the Mariners might be tempted to move would be starters Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood. Vargas, 29, has the most value since he’s under team control for another year as he heads into his final season of arbitration eligibility. He’s also having his best season as a starter (11-7, 3.76 ERA), so Zduriencik wouldn’t likely deal him unless he received a quality offensive prospect or two in return.

Millwood, 37,  is in the final two months of a one-year, $1 million deal he signed as a non-roster invitee. He’s pitched well this season, but lack of run support has left his record at 4-8 with a 3.90 ERA. The veteran knows he could be dealt to a contender, but isn’t spending a lot of time thinking about it.

“That’s just another thing I can’t control, so I try not to worry about things like that,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

– Greg Johns

Scenes from the Tokyo Dome on Opening Night

Yes, there was a King’s Court in the Tokyo Dome. This is Mariners security guard and avid fan Daryl Chadderdon, keeping the court alive and well half way across the world.

Here are fans lined up to buy concessions, with Mariners items the seemingly popular item. A Mariners shirt, that would be 6,000 yen. Most Tokyo Dome fans lined up solidly in favor of Seattle, with lots of Ichiro jerseys. Did see a couple A’s shirts, but they were in the distinct minority. Read more

Zduriencik downplays ‘front-runner’ role for Fielder

Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden suggested Tuesday on his Twitter account that the Mariners were the “front runners” for free agent Prince Fielder, with the Brewers, Cubs and Blue Jays only interested in shorter-term deals.

But Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik disagreed with the stance later in the evening when meeting with several Seattle media members in his hotel suite in the Anatole Hilton in Dallas.

“I don’t want to talk about Prince, but I would say the wording of that is misleading,” Zduriencik said. “Because you don’t know, on any free agent, I have no clue how many clubs are in on any free agent that we’re talking to.

“Even today, the guys I’ve sat with tell me they’ve got five clubs interested in their player or players. And in any case, how do you know that? Another ballclub is not going to tell you. As I’ve said with all of this stuff, I’d prefer to be low key on any discussion. My style is not to build up a big fanfare. Sometimes these things get legs of their own.

“To say anybody is a front runner, I don’t know how that would have come out.”

Zduriencik said he ran into Bowden in the hotel lobby earlier in the day, but the two exchanged nothing more than hellos. Bowden is now working for ESPN and MLB Network.

-Greg Johns

Mariners will test waters on Fielder

Jack Zduriencik isn’t jumping feet first into the pool quite yet, but the Mariners GM acknowledged his club is interested in Prince Fielder and will “go down that road” and see where it leads.

The Mariners certainly could use an offensive boost, having endured the lowest scoring offense in the American League the past two seasons. But they’ve also got about $80 million of their projected $95 million in payroll already tied up in existing contracts and expected arbitration raises.

Thus it would take some creative maneuvering to get serious with Fielder, which is why I specifically asked Zduriencik if the Mariners had the resources to pursue the free-agent slugger.

“That really depends,” said Zduriencik, who was the Brewers scouting director when they drafted Fielder in 2002. “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.”

Here’s my full story on Zduriencik’s thoughts on the Mariners situation as they head to the Winter Meetings next week.

– Greg Johns

Mike Wilson called up, Langerhans DFA’d

Looking to add some right-handed punch to their roster, the Mariners selected outfielder Mike Wilson from Triple-A Tacoma on Monday and designated veteran Ryan Langerhans for assignment.

Wilson, 27, will make his first appearance in a Major League uniform Tuesday when the Mariners open a three-game series in Baltimore. He was hitting .381 with four home runs and 14 RBIs for the Rainiers and has been in the Mariners Minor League system since 2001 when he was a second-round Draft pick.

Wilson gives manager Eric Wedge a right-handed option off the bench and could help out in left field or at designated hitter. The Mariners have won eight of their past 12 games, but continue struggling at the plate and have scored just 18 runs over their past eight games.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Wilson, who turned down a football scholarship to Oklahoma when he signed with the Mariners, hit 17 home runs in Tacoma and eight for Double-A West Tenn last season.

Langerhans, 31, is a nine-year Major League veteran who has been with the Mariners the past three seasons.  He was hitting .173 in 52 at-bats for Seattle with three home runs and six RBIs in 52 at-bats.

The Mariners will have 10 days to trade, release or outright the contract of Langerhans.

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