Mariners among Santana pursuers
Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana is one of several players the Mariners have inquired about heading into next week's baseball winter meetings...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana is one of several players the Mariners have inquired about heading into next week's baseball winter meetings.
Multiple sources in Minnesota and elsewhere in baseball indicated Thursday that the Mariners have already spoken with the Twins about their top pitcher. No formal offer is known to have been made, and the Mariners are one of several teams to have expressed interest in the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, in a conference call with local reporters Thursday, declined to comment on any specific players he was after. But Bavasi did suggest he'd be prepared to deal young prospects — like Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow or Jeff Clement — if the right trade proposal came along.
"Nobody's untouchable," Bavasi said.
Bavasi later amended that statement to say that the "one or two" players who would be untradable for Seattle are those who have already spent significant time with the team. Presumably, those would include center fielder Ichiro, starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and perhaps closer J.J. Putz.
But Bavasi says he needs to improve at least two starting-pitcher spots — either with a new arm or improvement from someone already with the team — and knows the trade price could be steep. The price of landing Santana, given the names already being tossed around, would almost certainly include Jones, Morrow and at least one other player.
Jones is slotted to start in right field next season, with Ichiro in center and Raul Ibanez in left.
"That's not to say we wouldn't make any moves," Bavasi said. "But if we opened tomorrow, those are the guys who are in the outfield and [Jose] Vidro's the DH."
The Mariners have made a multiyear offer to Japanese free-agent starter Hiroki Kuroda. But he is being pursued by at least three other teams — the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Royals among them — and is not expected to make his decision for several days.
Other pitchers the Mariners could pursue via trade include Erik Bedard of the Orioles, Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins, Mark Prior of the Cubs and A.J. Burnett of the Blue Jays.
Beyond pitching, Bavasi mentioned a need to improve at second base — whether through a new player or a significant leap by incumbent Jose Lopez. Lopez struggled through the second half of last season, particularly after the June death of his brother in a motorcycle accident.
"We have to get better there," Bavasi said. "Whether we get somebody else, or take Jose and make him better, we need to get better."
Beyond some possible tweaking of the bullpen, improvement at second base and in the rotation remains the team's goal. A baseball source said Thursday the Mariners are likely a "second-tier" contender for Santana, largely because he has expressed a preference for playing on the East Coast.
Another source, a major-league pitcher from Venezuela who is close to Santana, says Santana is less enthused about pitching on the West Coast because of the heavier travel involved.
Santana, who turns 29 in March, has one year remaining on his contract and a no-trade clause that effectively gives him control over where he ends up. Any team dealing for him would likely have to complete a multiyear extension, which could top out six years in length and $120 million to $150 million in value.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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