Just because Josh Hamilton is off the board doesn't mean the Seattle Mariners are done looking, general manager Jack Zduriencik told Greg Johns of MLB.com on Friday.
The Mariners were closely linked with the slugging outfielder, widely regarded as the best free agent this offseason. But the dominos that would've pushed Hamilton to the Mariners started to fall the other way, and in the end the Angels came in and surprised everyone by signing Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal.
Zduriencik acknowledged that this isn't the strongest free agent class, but that there are still available pieces to help fill holes the Mariners have.
"There are players out there that can help your club," Zduriencik said. "One thing we've said is we do want to add some veteran leadership. That's going to be very important to how we play in 2013. We haven't stopped looking at the primary or secondary market. We've looked at a lot of alternatives and so have a lot of other clubs. We'll continue the process."
Players like outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn still remain on the board, and Swisher has often been linked to the Mariners by many sportswriters as a prime candidate to split time between first base and outfield.
"We've had a lot of dialogue going on with clubs as well as players. We were on the phone last night quite a bit, and we'll continue to do that today. We'll see where it ends up. The total impact of Josh Hamilton is not out there, but there are other pieces that can make your club better, and we're going to try to do that."
There is also still the possibility that the Mariners make a trade using their now treasure-trove of prospects as the center piece. But Zduriencik has commented before, and again, that he is a bit reluctant to move players that he feels are close to the major league level. The Mariners have two of the top 10 prospects according to MLB.com, and Zduriencik told Johns he has been getting a lot of calls about his youngsters -- just no calls worth conversing much about.
"Could I have made a trade? Of course. But taking on cost and getting a player with less years of control and giving up your very strong assets, that's fine if it makes a lot of sense. As I've said all along, I'm willing to trade apple for orange if it makes us better. But I'm not willing to trade two apples for one orange, and that's what we've been seeing."
It will remain a battle to see what the Mariners do with the rest of the offseason, of which there is plenty left. The Mariners front office allowed for a payroll increase this year, which combined with an increasingly restless fan base, has led many Mariners fans clamoring for a big splash to be made or something to be done.
"I know people are anxious and you can get to a point where you feel you have to do something," he said, "but you only have to do something if it's the right thing from a baseball standpoint...I think we've shown that, but dealing with someone who wants to 'win' a deal with you, that's not an avenue I want to go down. I want a deal that helps both of us and is fair. I'm not going to be held up by giving away what I'd consider strong assets when we're in the middle of this whole building process and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. To abandon that now would be foolish."
Based off his comments, Zduriencik looks pretty committed to his rebuilding effort, which technically has seen improvement over the past two years. Players like Swisher and Bourn still remain on the board, and other outfielders like Cody Ross and Raul Ibanez are still available and would not cost the Mariners their 12th overall draft pick in the 2013 draft.