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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 30, 2008 9:15 AM

M's all talk, waiting on Yankee action

Posted by Geoff Baker

We're approaching the 24-hour window for that Jarrod Washburn-to-New York deal to get done and the standoff between the Mariners and New York Yankees continues. By "window" I mean prior to the July 31 trade deadline. The M's, of course, can still deal Washburn after that, but everyone has to pass through waivers first. By everyone, I also mean the players (if any) coming back Seattle's way. If it's a decent prospect, fat chance of that happening.

As we mentioned the other day, what you have here is a game of "chicken" or "poker" being played to see who will blink first. The New York media seems to agree on that now. At least, some writers do. Here's the take by John Harper of the New York Daily News, which actually calls it a "poker'' game.

The folks at Newsday have also been all over this deal from the beginning. They call this a "dead'' deal, but I don't share that opinion. I agree with Harper above in that the Yankee spin-meisters only want folks to think it's dead so that the M's will cave and throw Washburn out there. But as we mentioned two days ago, and which the Newsday reporters do in their piece, the M's are really under no pressure to get a cash-only deal done with the Yankees on Washburn. You can do that in August, since waivers won't be an issue in a salary dump. Well, they could be an issue for the Yankees if a team steps up to claim Washburn, either out of interest or to block a trade.

But if it's a salary-only deal anyway, the M's can just let that claiming team take Washburn and all of his salary. What do they care? At most, they'd lose that third-rate, token prospect the Yanks are offering to throw in right now. No big deal. As we discussed, as long as the Yanks stick to their current position, the M's are under no pressure to move Washburn by tomorrow. They can always call New York's bluff and then, if they really are desperate to unload his salary, just make the move on Aug. 1. New York's needs won't change in one day. They aren't going to walk away from the salary-only deal just because 24 hours have passed.

It was no coincidence that interim Seattle GM Lee Pelekoudas picked last night to hold an impromptu gathering with Seattle beat writers just before gametime. Pelekoudas wanted to fire off another salvo in public, directly at the Yankees, without actually naming them.

His claim that the team is under no pressure to deal Washburn before next month's actual, final trade deadline of Aug. 31 is bang-on. It's true. As I've just outlined above, he can do that deal with New York on Friday morning under its current set-up.

But the biggest missile he fired in this verbal Cold War was to state that the team has no problem waiting until the winter meetings before dealing Washburn. Or keeping him for next season. Now, that may be true. Or, it may be the biggest fib since Rangers manager Ron Washington lied about Hank Blalock having an upset stomach the other night (it was a bad shoulder and he's now on the DL).

The M's might, as Buster Olney wrote for ESPN the other day, realize that this is the biggest chance they'll ever have to offload Washburn's $13.6 million in salary owed through 2009. If they wait until the winter and Washburn implodes these final two months, there is little chance of that happening.

Or, the M's might be serious that they consider Washburn a valuable piece of their rotation and would be counting on him in 2009. Counting on him for what? Who knows? This team still hasn't decided whether it's going to take a shot in 2009 or blow the whole thing up. Or something in between. The new GM will have a huge say in that.

So, this whole "wait until the winter'' thing could be one huge Pelekoudas bluff.

Why would the Yankees fall for it? Because if the M's are serious and really are prepared to wait until the winter unless given a serious prospect in return, then New York has to make the deal by tomorrow. Because you won't get a top prospect through waivers after the July 31 deadline. And perhaps the M's will find another bidder on Washburn by tomorrow. Olney speculates here that it could be the New York Mets. Suggests a package deal with Raul Ibanez. Why not? This story out of Denver saysthe Rockies, easing into contention in a terrible division, may also get in on Washburn.

But if the Yankees call the Pelekoudas bluff, figuring he'd be thilled to unload Washburn's money, then they can wait beyond the deadline and complete the deal in August. It's all on the Yankees now and how desperate they are feeling.

Here's one of the Newsday baseball blogs, written by Kat O'Brien, about the state of New York pitching. Not pretty. I liked this comment by one of her readers, el predicto, which goes: yanks will make big deals tomorrow using their plethora of young trade chips in the minor leagues plus melky, wilson betermeat and maybe others. the team can't stay this way and won't win if they do.

If you're the M's, you have to hope the Yankees are thinking that way. For all that isn't happening, this is truly great theater if you know what to look for.


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