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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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December 6, 2008 6:57 PM

Twins to go after Beltre

Posted by Geoff Baker

vegas1 029.jpg

Things won't be getting underway for another 36 hours or so. But some team officials have already gotten an early start on the annual baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas. Imagine that. Here, you see the sun setting on the Vegas strip late this afternoon. Most team GMs and front office types, including the remainder of the Mariners' staff, will get here by late tomorrow. The meetings officially begin on Monday and we'll have wall-to-wall coverage for you from the Bellagio Hotel, including news, commentary, photos, videos, and daily broadcasts of the Geoff Baker Show. You can phone in your questions at 206-464-8286 and I'll try to play as many as I can in the broadcasts on this blog. Start calling in tomorrow night and keep doing it throughout the week. We have four shows to fill.

Some early news for you. I've gotten word that talks broke down last night between the Minnesota Twins and Dodgers free agent Casey Blake. The Twins badly want a third baseman and will now step up efforts to get one, including conversations with the Mariners for Adrian Beltre. Minnesota inquired about Beltre last summer, but felt the asking price was too high given the salary they would have had to take on. That salary is now down to $12 million for the 2009 season instead of the $17 million it would have cost to get him last July. Don't forget, the M's want players back in return as well.

Other teams the Twins will talk to include the Colorado Rockies, who have third baseman Garrett Atkins to offer up. Those teams have discussed an Atkins deal before as well.

Names to watch for coming back the other way in any Beltre talks? One possibility is outfielder/DH Michael Cuddyer, a guy sidelined nearly three months by injury (sore index finger/broken left foot) last season, but who hit pretty well in previous campaigns? Cuddyer has two years remaining on his contract, guaranteeing him $16.25 million. That figure includes a $1 million buyout clause on a club option for 2011.

Cuddyer is owed $6.75 million for this year and $8.5 million next season. The 2011 option is for a hefty $10.5 million.

Last year, he put up a .330 on-base-percentage and .399 slugging percentage during his injury-riddled campaign. Not good.

But in 2007, when healthy, Cuddyer posted a .790 on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS). Not quite his .866 OPS in 2006 -- including 24 homers and 109 RBI. Still, an upgrade for Seattle power-wise.

Cuddyer is no defensive whiz, though. Which is why he looks better as a DH. He bats righthanded as well. So, not the perfect fit for Safeco Field. But he also played third base in the majors before and his defensive totals there -- while not Gold Glove -- were adequate. This team will need a third baseman if Beltre leaves and until someone else can be groomed. At worst, Cuddyer is a DH who can fill in at third.

No, that's not the only piece of a Beltre trade but it's a start. It makes things a little more palatable on the money end for the Twins and gets the Mariners someone they can use right now. Don't forget, Beltre is out of Seattle in a year. There would have to be, I would think, at least a pospect or two included in such a deal to make things worth it for the M's. After all, they'd be ridding the Twins of a logjam in the outfield and their DH spot while offsetting money owed Beltre.

It's just a thought I'm throwing out there. Expect to hear those names tossed around this week as the M's, Twins and Rockies start chatting. Everything's a "giant gamble" sometimes, as the guy in the photo below can attest.

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