Mariners may make pitch for Manny
Pitching remains top priority, but rumors surround Ramirez
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Mariners were able to scratch one need off their offseason wish list Monday, though it certainly wasn't the biggest area of concern that they wanted to address at the Winter Meetings.
By signing outfielder Jose Guillen to a one-year contract worth a reported $5.5 million, the Mariners were able to land the corner outfielder they have coveted since the end of last season.
With the completion of that deal early Monday, the Mariners turned their attention back to their most glaring and obvious need -- finding starting pitching.
The Mariners weren't able to sign a pitcher Monday but they met with several teams and representatives of a handful of free agents in their suite at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort outside Orlando.
By the end of the day, Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi was asked if the team was close to pulling off a trade or signing a free agent to bolster a rotation with currently only two set starters.
"I don't think so," he said.
For as focused on pitching as Seattle is, maybe the most interesting name the team found itself linked to do not involve a pitcher at all. It involved Boston's Manny Ramirez.
Yes, that Manny Ramirez.
The Red Sox are reportedly offering the power-hitting outfielder in the right deal and the Mariners -- through their normal due diligence with clubs -- met with Red Sox officials.
"We asked them what they were trying to do and we told them what we're trying to do," Bavasi said.
It's wasn't known what specific players the teams talked about but first baseman Richie Sexson's name was linked to a number of teams -- including the Red Sox -- even though he's owed $14 million in each of the next two seasons.
One rumor hinted at a possible three-way deal with Boston and San Francisco. The Red Sox, who need a closer, are thought to be high on the Mariners' Rafael Soriano. The Giants, in that scenario, would land Sexson with Ramirez coming to Seattle. Soriano's move to Boston would complete the blockbuster.
"I'd say with Richie and Adrian [Beltre], they're brought up more," Bavasi said. "We get a lot of hits on both of them. But we're trying to get better ... not worse. We have not seriously entertained one inquiry on those guys."
As for their pursuit of starting pitching, the Mariners might have well gained a leg up in the bidding sweepstakes for free-agent pitcher Jason Schmidt by default as the Chicago Cubs reportedly made a four-year offer to Ted Lilly.
Yes, these would be the same Chicago Cubs who a week ago reportedly floated a four-year offer worth $37.5 million to Schmidt, an offer the Cubs denied. Should the Cubs sign Lilly, the Mariners and the Dodgers would be the clear frontrunners for Schmidt.
If the Mariners are unable to land Schmidt, there are other options.
The Mariners met Monday with the Baltimore Orioles, who said they're amendable to dealing starter Rodrigo Lopez.
The right-handed Lopez -- who was 9-18 last season with a 5.90 ERA -- has a history of success against American League teams (17-12, 2.72 ERA).
For all of his struggles last season, Lopez earned two victories against Seattle and didn't allow a run in his last two starts, spanning 15 innings.
"Actually, we've had considerable interest on him," Baltimore vice president of baseball operations Jim Duquette said of Lopez. "There are several teams -- by design -- that we tried to meet with today that we knew were short on pitching. We'll see if there's a fit there."
Free-agent right-handed John Thomson -- formerly of the Braves -- remains a possibility.
Thomson isn't the front-tier pitcher the Mariners would like to add but could be a bargain, considering he won 14 games for Atlanta in 2004 before injuries limited him to only 179 innings of work over the next two seasons.
Colorado starter Jason Jennings continues to be a target of Bavasi's.
The Rockies are looking for a center fielder and the Mariners might be willing to deal Jeremy Reed and possibly someone else to land Jennings. Colorado officials said they will entertain offers from other clubs.
The Mariners were one of the few teams to get a deal done on Monday when they signed Guillen to a contract for 2007 that calls for $3 million in incentives and a mutual option for $9 million for 2008.
"He's got a lot of motivation to have a great year," Bavasi said.
The hope is that Guillen's health -- he had reconstructive right elbow surgery last July -- will allow him to hold down the right field job and retain the kind of power he showed with the Angels in 2004 (27 home runs) and Nationals in 2005 (24).
But, for now, it's back to looking for starting pitching.
"I think there are some things that we're working real hard on getting done. It will be real interesting and exciting if we can," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "... I feel good about it. Hopefully, three days from now I'll feel better."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.