SEATTLE -- Although the Mariners plan to pursue offensive upgrades this offseason, general manager Jack Zduriencik said Friday he doesn't see Seattle being big players in the pursuit of free-agent slugger Josh Hamilton.
Zduriencik didn't slam the door on Hamilton, but indicated the length of contract and financial commitment the five-time All-Star outfielder will be seeking "might surpass where we're going to be" and that it would be unwise for the Mariners to put all their eggs in that basket while waiting for the free-agent dance to play out.
"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."
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com earlier this week at the Owners Meetings in Chicago that Zduriencik was looking into Hamilton's situation, noting the team needed offense and had some money to spend, but also indicating the team was still weighing its options.
Zduriencik spent the last several days meeting with his top brass in Seattle to discuss 40-man roster decisions that must be finalized by Tuesday, as well as potential free agents and trade scenarios. By Friday evening, he sounded like a man no longer weighing Hamilton as one of the options.
"There are a lot of great things to like about several of these guys on the market, and we're doing our homework," he said. "But when you hear what players expect and the years involved, that's a lot to consider. At the end of the day, when you gauge the market, you have to be realistic about where it will end up. And there's a strong possibility that one will exceed where we're at."
Hamilton, 31, has been one of the American League's premier power hitters the last five years with Texas and was the 2010 AL MVP. Early reports indicate he's seeking seven years and $175 million.
Zduriencik went down this same path with Prince Fielder a year ago, having extensive talks with agent Scott Boras about whether Fielder would be interested in the Mariners within their "threshold," which involved a shorter contract than the 10-year, $214 million deal the big first baseman ultimately wound up signing on Jan. 26 with the Tigers.
Zduriencik said he's had talks with Mike Moye, who represents Hamilton, as well as the agents of most of the available players on the market. And while it's too early to know where Hamilton's situation will go, the signs are clear enough.
"You never say never to anything," Zduriencik said. "Don't get me wrong. Even in the Prince thing, you never knew where it would end up and this one you don't, either. But you kind of get an idea and feel. Last year in my discussions with Scott, he was pretty sure he'd get at least seven years with a '2' in front of the dollars. And he was right.
"So you always leave the door open, but in the end, you have to be realistic."
The Mariners do have some available payroll this offseason after the trade of Ichiro Suzuki, who was making $18 million last year, and a corner outfielder seems the logical place to add needed run production for a team that finished last in the AL in scoring. But Zduriencik said the trade market is also being explored in addition to free agents.
"I think we'll be able to add," Zduriencik said. "As I've said, it's not the greatest free-agent market, so when you have to tie a player into four to five years, sometimes that is a factor as well. Age and dollars and years, all these things tie in. We're going to try to get a deal or two done, but with all these things considered."
Two free-agent outfielders are off the market already, with Torii Hunter signing with Detroit and Melky Cabrera agreeing to a deal with the Blue Jays on Friday. Whether that signals the beginning of a fast-moving market for outfielders remains to be seen.
"Torii was a very unique scenario," Zdurienick said. "I talked to [Tigers GM] Dave Dombrowski today. Torii had targeted them as his destination. My understanding is everybody else was going to fall behind his first choice. The fact his first choice said yes made it easy for Detroit and Torii. With Melky, they were very aggressive and that one moved quickly."
Hamilton isn't expected to move quickly, nor will he be signing in the range that Hunter (two years, $26 million) and Cabrera (two years, $16 million) agreed on. So while Zduriencik didn't shut the door completely on the offseason's biggest free-agent prize, he sounded pretty clear that the Mariners shouldn't be regarded as one of his primary options.