Mariners won't find any saviors in this trade market
Throw out all the rumors, and get ready for the reality. As with all negotiations, it invariably takes a deadline to prompt action. The deadline for non-waiver...
Seattle Times baseball reporter
Trade targets?The Mariners don't want to give up prospect Adam Jones but seek pitching help.
Al Reyes, reliever: Tampa Bay pitcher could fill a setup role.
Jon Garland, starter: Uncertain if White Sox pitcher is even on the market.
Throw out all the rumors, and get ready for the reality.
As with all negotiations, it invariably takes a deadline to prompt action. The deadline for non-waiver trades arrives today at 1 p.m., and the Mariners will no doubt push teams until the last tick of the clock, trying to shake loose the player of their dreams.
As one baseball official put it Monday, "People are more apt to show their cards in the last 24 hours. You find out who's bluffing, and who's blustering."
The Mariners are still hoping to add a starting pitcher, but the market as it stands now is decidedly uninspiring. They had lukewarm interest in Cincinnati's Kyle Lohse, who was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. Beyond that, "the vast majority of the starting pitchers who are available aren't any good," one scout said bluntly.
Even Dontrelle Willis, winless since May 29, isn't inspiring much excitement in the Mariners' camp — and that's likely a moot point anyway, because the Marlins have given no indication Willis is available.
That apparently leaves the White Sox's Jon Garland as the Mariners' starter of choice. But so far, Sox general manager Kenny Williams has been preoccupied with trying to move outfielder Jermaine Dye and trying to push struggling Jose Contreras on teams. The Mariners will be waiting to pounce if Williams puts Garland in play.
The trade deadline, of course, is that magical time when a 37-year-old pitcher who has played in seven organizations over the last 13 years — with two Tommy John surgeries in his past, and a stint on the disabled list this year for a shoulder strain — is suddenly the object of a mini-feeding frenzy.
That would be one Al Reyes of the Tampa Devil Rays, and the Mariners are among several teams interested in adding him to their bullpen for the stretch drive. He has had a strong year, with 17 saves in 18 opportunities, 44 strikeouts in 39 innings, and a .193 opponents' batting average.
The Rays will no doubt use the dwindling market for short relievers to try to extract a king's ransom for Reyes, who has a 10.80 earned-run average in six July appearances. Tampa Bay has long been regarded as a team that drives a hard bargain. And with Octavio Dotel apparently close to being traded to the Atlanta Braves, and Eric Gagne rumored to be headed to the New York Yankees, Reyes suddenly is a very hot commodity.
"They want the moon and sun [for Reyes]," a scout said.
The Mariners are wrestling with the question of how deep they are willing to dip into their storehouse of prospects for the likes of Reyes or others on the market. They were said to be willing to trade outfielder Wladimir Balentien to the Kansas City Royals for Dotel, but the Royals reportedly opted to receive right-handed pitcher Kyle Davies from the Braves instead.
The Rays may also be dangling Dan Wheeler, the right-handed reliever they acquired two days ago from the Houston Astros. The Mariners like him, but not as much as Reyes.
Reyes is unlikely to warrant a Balentien, but the Mariners will have to give up a good prospect to get him. The Rays are looking for catching help and are likely to push hard for former No. 1 pick Jeff Clement, who, like Adam Jones, is deemed close to untouchable by the Mariners. If the Rays don't move off Clement, the deal is likely to die.
"Our guys are working hard," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "If there's a definite upgrade, and we're all saying that's the best thing to do, we'll do it. But if it means mortgaging the franchise, I'm dead against it.
"There's some guys down there [in the minors] we think a lot of. I think we're all aboard on this. We're not going to give up an Adam Jones for a rent-a-type-player."
There have been some published rumors that the Mariners would take a flier on struggling Yankees pitcher Kei Igawa (2-3, 6.79 ERA, demoted to the minors for the second time), perhaps in a contract exchange for first baseman Richie Sexson.
The Mariners are indeed said to be intrigued by Igawa but not as a boost for this year. His mechanical problems can't be solved in the major leagues, and if the Mariners took him on — not likely, it appears — it would be as a future project, and probably necessitating the Yankees eating much of his five-year, $20 million salary.
The Yankees, meanwhile, appear to have no desire to take on the $14 million remaining on Sexson's contract next season, even with a need for first-base help. Though the Mariners have tested the market on Sexson, who is hitting .202, it doesn't look they will be moving him.
The Mariners' other pursuit, besides pitching, is to strengthen their bench, and the name that has emerged is Houston's Mark Loretta. Loretta, 35, is a career .298 hitter who can play all the infield positions. He has been the regular shortstop for the Astros since Adam Everett broke his leg in June. In 299 at-bats this season, the right-handed-hitting Loretta is hitting .294 with two homers and 30 runs batted in.
Barring a change in trade dynamics — always a possibility at the eleventh hour — it doesn't seem likely that the Mariners will make a blockbuster. That's fine with McLaren.
"Some past years around here, we needed to upgrade our offense, or we were really short on pitching, and we needed major trades," he said. "When you didn't make those major trades, there's a letdown in that clubhouse.
"I don't see that here, because we have a good team in place. We do have good chemistry. If it's an upgrade that makes sense, I think they'll accept it. And if we don't make it, I think they'll understand we have a good team in place here, and we just couldn't make a deal."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.