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Mariners / MLB

Friday, December 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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M's talk with 39-year-old Gonzalez

Seattle Times staff reporter

Add another big-name free agent to the list of those being courted by the Mariners.

No, it isn't Barry Zito. In fact, it isn't even a pitcher. And in this case, the name itself might far exceed any returns on the field.

The Mariners have approached the agents for 39-year-old outfielder Luis Gonzalez, and the two sides will meet again when the baseball winter meetings open in Orlando, Fla., next week. The idea would be to use the 2001 World Series hero as both a left fielder and designated hitter.

"I wouldn't say they're jumping up and down, champing at the bit to get a deal done," Terry Bross, one of Gonzalez's agents, said Thursday in confirming the team telephoned him this week.

Bross said "four or five teams" have inquired about the longtime Arizona Diamondbacks veteran, but none have made an offer. He expects that to happen during the winter meetings and figures things will wrap up pretty quickly after that.

Gonzalez hit .271 with 15 homers, 73 runs batted in and an impressive 52 doubles last season, to go with a .352 on-base percentage and a .444 slugging percentage.

It's been an offseason of frustration for the Mariners, who were beaten out by the Phillies for local pitching product Adam Eaton. They were also thwarted by a $26 million bid from the New York Yankees in efforts to land the negotiating rights to Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa.

The Mariners opted to bid for Igawa — one report Thursday had them offering as much as $20 million — despite receiving no pressure from Japanese owner Hiroshi Yamauchi to do so. Yamauchi usually has his hand in decisions on such bids, but the Mariners' baseball operations department made this call on its own after watching the cost of other free-agent pitchers skyrocket.

Seattle still is trying to sign Kelso native Jason Schmidt. The Mariners are already getting stiff competition on that front from the Chicago Cubs, while the St. Louis Cardinals made clear on Thursday they are also pursuing one of the top pitchers still on the market.

Gonzalez earned $10.6 million last season playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He clinched the 2001 World Series for Arizona with a ninth-inning walk-off single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Despite a report out of Boston this week that Seattle might enter the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes — dismissed by a Beantown source as a purely speculative rumor — Gonzalez is more in line with what the Mariners are seeking to upgrade their offense.

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi has said that unless a deal falls in his lap in the coming days, any outfield bat brought in will be with leftover cash after pitching is acquired.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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