SEATTLE — When David Ross held on to the final strikeout of a World Series win for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, it launched the winter free-agency season for the Mariners and everyone else.
And no agent stands to have a bigger impact on this Mariners offseason than California-based Scott Boras. Not only does he represent slugger Kendrys Morales — one of five Mariners who became free agents when the World Series ended — but also Oregon native Jacoby Ellsbury, an outfielder Seattle is expected to make a prime target.
“I think the ball landed in Ross’ glove and I got three calls within the first 15 minutes,” Boras said Thursday by phone from the airport in Orange County, Calif., where he was waiting to greet team representatives flying in to meet with him about clients.
Boras said he’d already taken calls from 17 or 18 teams since Wednesday, mostly about Ellsbury, fellow Red Sox client Stephen Drew and Morales. Asked whether Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was one of those calling about Ellsbury — the type of center fielder and leadoff hitter the Mariners need on a daily basis — Boras chuckled.
“I would label Jack as a wise GM, let’s put it that way,” he said.
Zduriencik has said upgrading the outfield will be a priority this winter. The Mariners will likely decline a $7.5 million option on center fielder Franklin Gutierrez for the 2014 season and allow him to leave as a free agent.
Outfielders Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez were among the Mariners who became free agents Wednesday night, along with Morales, catcher Humberto Quintero and left-handed relief pitcher Oliver Perez.
Zduriencik has said he’ll make Morales a one-year qualifying offer worth just less than $14 million for the 2014 season by Monday’s deadline. The Mariners would get a compensatory draft pick if Morales declines the offer and signs elsewhere.
Morales would have a full week after Monday’s deadline to accept or reject the offer.
Boras suggested Thursday there is considerable free-agent interest in Morales already that would negate the need for him to accept such a one-year offer. He considers Morales to be a viable first-base candidate as well as a designated-hitter option and said the list of such free agents who had at least 20 homers and 80 runs batted in last season is a small one.
Morales, a switch-hitter, clubbed 23 homers and drove in 80 runs last season, primarily as a DH.
Boras says he hopes to have considerable groundwork laid with interested teams before the GM and owners’ meetings Nov. 11-13 in Orlando, Fla. The Mariners are also trying to take care of business before then, primarily when it comes to having a new manager in place.
Seattle has had preliminary discussions with coaches of several teams, including Tim Wallach of the Dodgers, Chip Hale of the Athletics, Ron Wotus of the Giants and Rick Renteria of the Padres, plus Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.
The Mariners are expected to speak to others as well, then invite a short list of candidates to Seattle for a more formal round of interviews in coming weeks. The team’s managerial vacancy was created when Eric Wedge informed the team he would not be seeking to stay on beyond his contract, which expired at season’s end.
Wedge interviewed this week with the Chicago Cubs for their managerial vacancy. Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis was interviewed by the Baltimore Orioles for their vacancy at that coaching spot.
While all Mariners coaches are under contract for 2014, the uncertainty at the manager’s spot means they are free to pursue employment elsewhere.