Mariners won't rule out dealing ace Hernandez
Jack Zduriencik will be asked about the availability of Felix Hernandez, as long as the ace right-hander remains property of the Seattle Mariners.
Zduriencik, now beginning his second offseason as the Seattle general manager, isn't eager to trade Hernandez. The Mariners' budget is in good shape, so there is no pressing need to move Hernandez and his increasing salary.
But Zduriencik hasn't ruled out the possibility, either.
"As we stand now, he's an integral part of what we're doing," Zduriencik said Monday, as the general managers' meetings opened at the Hilton O'Hare Airport.
When it comes to Hernandez's status, Zduriencik has stayed on message very well.
Asked in August about trade discussions involving Hernandez at the non-waiver trade deadline, Zduriencik replied, "I have to listen. That's part of my job." Zduriencik added then that Hernandez would be the team's Opening Day pitcher in 2010 "unless we get Koufax or Marichal."
At present, Zduriencik indicated that his 2010 rotation includes Hernandez, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Brandon Morrow, Ian Snell and a fifth starter to be determined. (He mentioned Doug Fister, Garrett Olson and Jason Vargas as candidates.)
Zduriencik acknowledged there is a possibility that the Mariners will sign a free agent starter. The Mariners have cleared a number of sizeable contracts from their payroll — Miguel Batista, Erik Bedard, Adrian Beltre, Kenji Johjima — and should have more spending power than most other clubs.
"Everybody would like to add starting pitching," Zduriencik said. "We're no different."
Zduriencik wouldn't comment on specific free agents, but there promises to be plenty of speculation about left fielder Jason Bay, who makes his offseason home in the Seattle area.
The Mariners need power, and Bay, who had more than 100 RBIs this season, could provide it.
Zduriencik declined to offer an update on the status of Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr., who is a free agent. Griffey batted only .214, but his 19 home runs and positive clubhouse presence helped the Mariners have a winning record this year.