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For Mariners, Winter Meetings laid foundation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Mariners departed the Winter Meetings on Thursday without any new players officially under wraps. But that doesn't mean Seattle doesn't remain a big player itself in potential offseason moves that figure to play out in the coming days.

Other than a one-year deal with outfielder Jason Bay that has yet to be officially announced, general manager Jack Zduriencik didn't generate any headlines at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

But Zduriencik did generate enough talk with other teams and agents that he feels the groundwork could be in place for moves in the coming days. National reports were circulating that a complicated four-player deal was being discussed that essentially would bring Rangers pitcher Derek Holland to Seattle, which would give up Jesus Montero or top prospects.

Another report from the Seattle Times said the Mariners were "very close" to a Josh Hamilton signing, if the Rangers opted to sign pitcher Zack Greinke instead. But while Zduriencik declined to comment on Hamilton or any specific free agents, team president Chuck Armstrong told reporters that Seattle wasn't close on Hamilton and while they had met with him, there had not even been any financial figures discussed.

Bottom line, the Mariners continue to push for an impact bat and met with every team and the agents for every prominent free-agent hitter -- from Hamilton to Nick Swisher to Michael Bourn -- as well as representative for veterans like Mark Reynolds and Raul Ibanez.

There weren't a lot of deals done by any teams at these Meetings, but things eventually will shake out, often in different circumstances than those being tossed about in the media.

"We had a lot of engaging discussions," Zduriencik said. "I was up late last night 'til about midnight having meetings. You never know what's going to happen. So many times a lot of guys come in here with big hopes of things working and you try to go down every avenue. I think that's what a lot of clubs have done. We've heard a lot about three- and four-player deals. They get complicated, and I do think clubs are just trying to do their due diligence.

"In the end, when the dust settles and you get away from here, reality kind of takes over and you just decide, OK, this is where we're at and if we want to make a decision, here it is. That's why sometimes action happens when you leave here rather than when you're here."

Three years ago, Zduriencik was leaving the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis when he ran into Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro in the airport. The two exchanged thoughts on a trade that would bring Cliff Lee to Seattle. By the time Zduriencik reached the connection city on his flight back to Seattle, he had a message on his cellphone from Amaro saying he was interested in doing the deal.

Last year's Montero-Michael Pineda trade with the Yankees germinated at the Meetings in Dallas, but didn't finalize until a month later.

Thus it should be no surprise that Zduriencik remains optimistic that things can and will still happen in regard to some of the discussions that took place the past four days.

The Mariners had already signed pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Oliver Perez and traded for infielder Robert Andino, so their major desire at Nashville was pursuing offensive help, preferably in the outfield.

"I think we're really, really close on something," Zduriencik said, likely in reference to the Bay signing. "And we'll continue to have discussions and dialogue maybe even today at the airport. Who knows? For us right now, it'd be nice to get back home and kind of circle the wagons and sit down with the group tomorrow and rehash everything that has gone on here and see where we stand."

Deals done: Nothing was announced officially, but the Mariners are on the brink of an agreement with free-agent outfielder Bay on a one-year deal.

Rule 5 Draft activity: The Mariners didn't choose anyone in the Rule 5 Major League Draft -- not surprising since their 40-man roster is full and they would have had to drop someone in order to make room. They did add Brewers second baseman Eric Farris in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Farris played briefly in the Majors last season.

Goals accomplished: Adding Bay will give the Mariners a veteran presence and right-handed corner outfielder, two things they covet. But he'll need to bounce back from a tough 2012, after which the Mets released him with $21 million still owed.

Unfinished business: Seattle still seeks a big impact bat and Zduriencik continues looking at every possible option. The Mariners will continue pursuing another outfielder either through trade or free agency to bolster a young team that finished last in the AL in scoring. Zduriencik is also open to adding a veteran starting pitcher as well as another reliever, if the right fit arises.

The bottom line: "You're always optimistic. There have been some fruitful discussions. Where they end up, nobody knows. But the fact there were a lot of discussions and a lot of dialogue, I think there were seeds planted and we'll see where it ends up." -- Zduriencik.

Seattle Mariners