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Zduriencik plans to keep top prospect Walker

GM expects interest in young pitcher but does not intend to trade him

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While one of the prime rumors circulating prior to the Winter Meetings involved the Mariners' interest in potentially trading top young pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a package for Rays ace David Price, general manager Jack Zduriencik dashed that thought Monday afternoon.

"I don't have intentions of trading Taijuan," Zduriencik said. "You listen to any opportunities that present themselves and you go into discussions with a lot of people. And his name will come up. Why wouldn't it? As do a lot of our guys, quite frankly. But Taijuan is high profile because he's rated our top prospect.

"So if I was a club out there, why wouldn't I ask about Taijuan Walker? That would be a smart thing to do, because you never know where it's going to take you. But I have no intentions of trading him."

Walker has a strong chance of landing a job in the Mariners' rotation this spring after making three starts last September for Seattle. The hard-throwing 21-year-old is under team control for six more years and is regarded as the fourth-highest rated prospect in baseball by

Price, 28, was the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner and is a three-time All-Star, so the Rays will want a huge return of young talent in any trade. Price has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining for the Rays and figures to make about $13 million next season and more in 2015 before becoming a free agent.

The Mariners would like to add another starting pitcher to their rotation, which already includes All-Stars Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. But if they traded Walker, they would still need to add another pitcher because Walker figures as part of the rotation next year.

While many top free agents are already off the market, the premier starting pitchers all remain available, including Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo.

Zduriencik said most clubs had focused on signing the second tier of pitchers, but the top group could go in a hurry once one signs.

"That could be," Zduriencik said of a potential domino effect. "Also the prices are pretty high. I think that the cost factors are such that play into all of these. As your club is out there, a lot of pitching has gone off the market; a lot of pitching were paid pretty handsomely. And now the available pitchers, clubs are trying to figure how they can do it, how can they fit this particular pitcher and his price tag may have jumped considerably based on other signings, and that's probably slowed the market down."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
Read More: Seattle Mariners, Taijuan Walker