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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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July 11, 2008 11:53 AM

Bidding war launched?

Posted by Geoff Baker

Just arrived in Kansas City. Spent the night in Houston just to get a little bit closer to here in order to not have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get here by 4 p.m. Not a while lot of direct flights here, across the two time zones, that fit with our needs and schedule. So, I opted to fly to Houston, arrive there at midnight and get a good night's sleep before the two-hour hop-over to here. But I made that flight to Houston last night with about 10 minutes to spare, thanks to the ninth-inning collapse by the Mariners in Oakland. The quick version is, I wrote my game story on the train from Oakland to San Francisco, which had the night's last flight out to Houston leaving at 6:25 p.m. It's an hour train ride from Oakland to SFO Airport (longer if you drive in rush hour traffic). It's a quarter-mile walk to the train station with luggage. Needless to say, I didn't have time to draw you up any colorful stat boxes.

Anyway, remember a couple of days ago, when we discussed the M's need to get a bidding war started over Erik Bedard? Well, let the bidding begin. First off, it looks like the career of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder, one of the Big Three from the Oakland A's heyday earlier this decade, is done. With that pitching loss, Cards manager Tony LaRussa is hitting the panic button and putting some public pressure on his GM to do something.

Doing something could mean getting into a bidding war with the Philadelphia Phillies over Bedard.

But here's the catch. New Cards GM John Mozeliak has already said he isn't going to make reactionary moves. Well, that stance is going to feel pressure as the days tick by towards the July 31 trade deadline.

There is a trend by newer GMs, especially those committed to rebuilding from within, to resist the temptation to spend big bucks on free agents or do mega-deals at the deadline. Hey, after seeing what just happened to the Mariners after going all-in on Bedard, who can blame them?

But it's one thing to talk tough. Quite another to do it and watch as your team loses games in the nights leading up to the deadline.

We're seeing a kind of similar thing take place in Tampa Bay, where Rays GM Andrew Friedman keeps insisting he isn't in a hurry to give up tons of talent to bring in arms that can help his staggering bullpen.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on both situations and see what happens next. Not only from a Mariners perspective. But just insofar as how it relates to what GMs do going forward. If the Cards don't add an arm and fall out of the race, or if the Rays keep blowing late leads and eventually squander their division advantage, it could provide a lesson to future GMs. That there may be such a thing as being too cautious, too focused on the future at the expense of the present.

Conversely, if the Cards can hold out until some injured arms return in August, and should the Rays manage to make the playoffs while not giving away any of their core of young prospects, it could send the lesson in the other direction. That maybe holding off and not making the July 31 trade deadline into an annual circus really is the smartest way to go.

There is, of course, a third way. That would be for the Rays to hold off now, miss the playoffs, then make the playoffs again and again. Or contend for several years down the road.

That third route is laden with risk. For one, you need a patient fan base, an owner willing to stand behind you and wait and a future that unfolds the way you see it. There are no dynasties left in baseball. Maybe a handful of teams that make the playoffs year after year, yes, but even they are not guaranteed to make the post-season on a continuous basis.

It's a risk. And it's not your job, or mine, at stake.

That's why this year's deadline should be particularly interesting to follow. Even after it's come and gone.


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