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Mariners remain in hunt for Bourn, Swisher

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As the Winter Meetings headed into their final hours on Wednesday evening, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik continued his pursuit of an impact bat. But if a major deal doesn't get done before Thursday's departure, the hunt won't end there.

"We're just going to push forward and continue to explore every option," said Zduriencik, who had more meetings with agents and other clubs scheduled for Wednesday night at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. "If it leads to a road well taken for both parties, then hopefully something will get done. Otherwise, you just keep doing your work and hope something clicks."

The Mariners continue to be among the primary pursuers of free-agent outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Though Zduriencik has said he didn't figure to compete for Josh Hamilton, he reportedly met with him Sunday as well as the Mariners did their due diligence on every top bat available.

Since no deal has yet been announced, Zduriencik wouldn't comment on one smaller piece that might have fallen into place Wednesday, with the club close to a one-year contract with free-agent outfielder Jason Bay.

But Zduriencik did acknowledge the team's primary pursuit has always been veteran outfielders and his description fit Bay.

"We said from the beginning if we could come up with a veteran player, preferably a corner outfielder or corner player, DH, a right-handed bat, that would be very helpful," Zduriencik said. "It's one of the things that has been on our agenda. It doesn't limit us, but it's certainly something we've kind of focused on."

Bourn isn't a corner outfielder, but is one of the premier center fielders in the game and a guy who brings speed and a top-of-the-order threat. Whether that is a route the Mariners continue to pursue remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. The 26-year-old won't be an easy signing with Scott Boras as his agent and the Phillies believed to be hot in the hunt.

"I think the value of a player, to me, is represented upon his standing among his peers," Boras told reporters Wednesday in his annual media scrum at the Meetings. "So when you take out the metrics of the game, the performance, the great thing about Michael is that his consistency is greater than all. His defensive acumen, there's just a huge separation between him and every other player at that position.

"And offensively, he provides the leadoff spot. I think you have center field, you have leadoff, and your 3-4-5 hitter, there aren't many of those in the game. Those all add premiums to him that most of the other players in this market don't have."

Swisher is a different type of player. He'd play a corner outfield spot and provide more of a middle-of-the-order run producer that would seemingly fill the Mariners biggest need. And the competition for his services may have eased slightly with Boston signing Shane Victorino on Wednesday.

Swisher also would add roster flexibility with his ability to play first base, which would provide an option should Justin Smoak struggle. So the former Yankee seemingly fits and will thus continue to be strongly linked to Seattle's pursuits.

One thing the media hasn't focused on at these Meetings is the Mariners potential interest in pitching, but Zduriencik didn't rule that out, either.

"Maybe it doesn't fit exactly like you want, but we still have a young staff," he said. "Adding a piece to this staff would be good and we're very open to that."

Zduriencik he hasn't shut the door on upgrading the bullpen either. Seattle's relievers have been the subject of much interest from other clubs discussing trade options, so signing a reliever could make it easier to include one of the hard-throwing youngsters in the 'pen if the Mariners wind up going that route.

But make no mistake, adding offense remains the main priority and manager Eric Wedge continues pushing for a leader type he felt was lacking last year.

"I think it's important to add a veteran presence," Wedge said. "We're kicking the tires on so many different individuals and so many different type of solutions for that."

That's why the club is interested in someone like Bay or 40-year-old Raul Ibanez. They'll likely be less interested this year in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, where they'll have the No. 12 pick. Last year, Seattle picked left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge with the third selection and he wound up being one of four Rule 5 Draft players in the Majors to stick with a team the whole season.

With their 40-man roster full, the Mariners would have to expose someone to waivers if they did select a player Thursday.

"We'll talk about it," Zduriencik said. "But there better be strong opinions the guy you select is going to be on your club [all year]. If we don't feel that way, we'll be a non-participant."

Seattle Mariners