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Originally published Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Larry Stone

Mariners need to be deadline dealers

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the Mariners will be sellers at the trade deadline. The last time they went that route with as...

Seattle Times baseball reporter

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the Mariners will be sellers at the trade deadline.

The last time they went that route with as much gusto as figures to happen this year — needs to happen — was in 2004, when in a two-day span they dumped Randy Winn, Miguel Olivo (their, ahem, catcher of the future) and Ron Villone, and had Jamie Moyer traded to Houston until he vetoed the deal.

Those trades netted catchers Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Ojeda and minor-league pitchers Jesse Foppert, Nate Mateo, Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery.

Obviously, they need to do better this time around. Optimally, they would unearth a trade-deadline hero like John Smoltz, Jeff Bagwell, Jason Isringhausen, Michael Young, Jason Varitek or Derek Lowe, all of whom (as Mariners fans know all too well, in the last two instances), were the unproven youngsters in stretch-drive deals.

The Mariners struck it rich twice with Randy Johnson, once coming (from Montreal for Mark Langston) and once going (to Houston, for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama).

The problem facing interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas this year is that the players he would be willing to trade — which figures to be anybody not named Felix Hernandez, Jeff Clement, Brandon Morrow or, probably, Ichiro — all have issues, making the job infinitely more problematic.

Performance issues. Health issues. Contract issues. In some cases, all three. Hey, you don't get halfway to 100 losses in late June by accident.

The hot topic is Ichiro, who has a limited no-trade clause in his contract. The big question is whether he has a de facto full no-trade clause coming from Japan. The industry belief is that Hiroshi Yamauchi, calling the Mariners' shots from Kyoto, would never allow Ichiro to be dealt. I believe that, too.

That might change if Ichiro — who last year signed a five-year extension through 2012 — went to Yamauchi personally and asked to get out of this mess. But those close to Ichiro say that is not the case, that he committed fully to the Mariners when he signed the contract and is willing to see it through the tough times. So I see him staying.

That said, this would probably be the right time to trade Ichiro, when he still has considerable value but is at an age (34) when a decline steeper than this year's could well be looming.

For the player most likely to be traded, I nominate Raul Ibanez. He would have value to a team needing to add a left-handed bat and, as a free agent after the season, could still come back to Seattle next year.

Here's another name that's never mentioned in trade rumors: Willie Bloomquist. He, too, is a free agent at the end of the year, and is making noises about loving the National League game. An NL team could well decide that Bloomquist's versatility and speed would be a nice piece for the stretch drive, but Bloomquist obviously wouldn't bring a blue-chip prospect in return.

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The industry word is that the Mariners are very willing to trade Erik Bedard, but will they be able? This could be Pelekoudas's foremost challenge: reversing the Bedard deal in a fashion that doesn't pale in comparison to the original trade with Baltimore.

That won't be easy, particularly since word of Bedard's standoffish attitude has spread around baseball. Then there's the matter of Bedard being a strict 100-pitch pitcher, and his health issues (hip, back).

But Bedard is a talent, and he could definitely help a team that believes it's one arm away. Unlike C.C. Sabathia, a team that got Bedard would have him for one more year beyond 2008.

Jarrod Washburn is performing well enough lately to catch the attention of a team trying to boost its pitching. But Washburn has one more year left on his contract at $10.35 million (plus the rest of this year's $9.85 million). The Mariners would probably have to assume some of that money for a deal to happen.

Adrian Beltre is an intriguing possibility. He is signed through next year at an oppressive $12 million, but is well respected around baseball, particularly for his defense. Beltre has a limited no-trade clause but would likely welcome a trade back to Southern California, where he lives, and thrived with the Dodgers.

In the untradeable category, I'd put Richie Sexson (performance, contract), Jose Vidro (performance), Kenji Johjima (contract), Miguel Batista (health, performance, contract) and Carlos Silva (contract, performance).

When it comes to reaping the talent needed to accelerate the Mariners' turnaround, Bedard and Ichiro are probably their best hopes. But I'd be surprised, if not shocked, if Ichiro were dealt.

Bedard, on the other hand, should be Pelekoudas' top project in the next month.

Towers is GM no-go

I included Kevin Towers on my initial list of Mariners GM candidates, and others have done the same. But as of now, the Padres GM is not available.

Three years ago, Towers received permission from San Diego CEO Sandy Alderson to interview with the Diamondbacks, who instead hired Josh Byrnes as their GM. But Alderson told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he will not grant the Mariners permission to talk to Towers, who had his contract extended last December through 2010.

"The Mariners have not asked for permission to talk to K.T.," Alderson said. "Were they to ask, it would not be granted."

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
lstone@seattletimes.com

UPDATE - 10:00 PM
Larry Stone: Young pitcher Michael Pineda offers glimpse of exciting future for Mariners

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