Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
July 31, 2008 5:13 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Seattle leads 2-0 in the first inning, the first run scoring on a double by Raul Ibanez, pictured above, telling Michael Young how he almost got traded.
So, interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas finally arrived at the ballpark after a long day of talking, but not much deal-making. That Arthur Rhodes deal, I'm told, pretty much came together last Sunday and the M's waited it out to see if any better offers came along. My contacts in Miami say that Seattle might have gotten the better of the Rhodes-Gaby Hernandez trade. Hernandez hung around with the Marlins right up until the end of spring training because they wanted a more in-depth look at him. The folks I talked to say he could be in Seattle's rotation by next year. As a No. 4 or No. 5 arm. He didn't start playing baseball until he was 13, when he switched over from soccer. He'll start off with Seattle's Class AA affiliate. He wasn't on the Marlins' 40-man roster.
Anyhow, I asked Pelekoudas about the Ibanez-to-Toronto scenario. In typical fashion, for the Mariners, he was very short on details.
"I'm not going to characterize what we did or didn't do with any club on a particular player,'' he said. "I'll just say that we came close to a couple of deals and weren't able to get them done.''
There you go, then. Well, hold on. There's a bit more to the whole story.
To recap, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said earlier today that he spent 2 1/2 hours working out details of the Ibanez trade and that things got "intense" and at one point, he thought a deal would get done. Until the Mariners backed out.
We don't know which players were being offered to Seattle. But privately, I'm told this wasn't exactly a case of the Mariners having a deal in-place with Toronto and getting cold feet.
"We were ready to go forward,'' Ricciardi said. "I think at the end of the day they just didn't feel as comfortable going forward to finish off the trade.''
Sure makes it sound as if the M's pulled out of a deal, doesn't it? From what I'm told, some members of Toronto's PR staff actually thought they had a deal and were ready to print out releases.
But now, I'm hearing that the two sides swapped a multitude of names. And not just over a few hours today. Over the past few days. The Blue Jays apparently kept going back to the M's and kept getting rebuffed. Then, the M's would go back to the Jays with names and get rebuffed. In the end, neither side could firmly agree.
Seattle's position was that the two players -- yes, it was going to be two 40-man roster guys -- had to be the equivalent of the two high-end draft picks they'd get as compensation for Ibanez leaving as a Type A free-agent at season's end. And in the end, the players the Jays offered did not meet that criteria in the eyes of Seattle's braintrust.
So, how did this pending "deal" make it into the media? Well, that's an easy one. Ricciardi has a stable of national baseball writers he's established relationships with over the years, dating back to his time as a Boston-based national crosschecker scout for the Oakland A's. Used to hold court with some of the big name East Coast writers every day in the pressbox dining room at Fenway Park. We're talking 15 and 20-year relationships.
Any time you see some in-depth Blue Jays story, with off-the-record details, in one of the big papers, online sites or magazines, chances are Ricciardi is the one doing the talking. Did he leak details of his negotiations with the Mariners to the media ahead of time? Maybe jump the gun a little enthusiastically? And in the end, make it look like it was the M's who couldn't pull the trigger on a deal, instead of him maybe not going along with one of their scenarios?
Hey, who knows? I wasn't in the room. But based on past evidence, I'd say it's entirely possible.
Doesn't mean the M's should not have gone along with any of the proposed deals. But it also doesn't mean they backed out of a pending deal either. Just trying to get you the most complete picture possible.