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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 9, 2008 1:17 PM

Wood to Indians?

Posted by Geoff Baker

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UPDATE (2:15 p.m.): A little broken telephone going on. It's actually Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez going to the Reds for outfielder Ryan Freel et al. Sorry for the mix-up. Expecting an announcement shortly...at 3:30 p.m., I'm now told. And the et al is now confirmed as minor league infielders Justin Turner and Brandon Waring.

The buzz here in the hallways of the Bellagio Hotel is that free-agent closer Kerry Wood is close to signing with the Cleveland Indians. We already told you the Indians would not be in on J.J. Putz, given the lack of players they have to deal. Wood has been targetted and that deal is close to fruition.

What does this mean for the Mariners and Putz's trade value? Two things. Both with opposite implications.

It would narrow the list of available closers down somewhat for a team like the Tigers. I'm told they aren't very high on free-agent Trevor Hoffman, so Putz -- a Michigan native and only 31 -- represents a younger alternative. Such a scenario could press the Tigers to get aggressive, as GM "Dealin' Dave'' Dombrowski is known to be. Some have suggested a Wood signing could panic the Tigers into acting. Both the Tigers and M's are said to have held discussions today. How intense? We'll ask Jack Zduriencik later.

So, that's one scenario. Here's another.

I'm told there are some differing opinions within the Tigers hierarchy about how the team should approach its closer quandry. While Dombrowski might be tempted to act fast, others inside the organization feel the Tigers can benefit by waiting this market out. The theory being, there are so many closers out there right now that -- as more and more start signing deals lesser-than-expected a few months back -- some arms might come down in price to what the Tigers want to pay. Despite what some think about the Tigers and their payroll, the team apparently is not willing to add anything beyond it right now. Several contracts, including those for pitchers Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman, are about to go through the roof. The team's payroll is not getting any smaller and that's before any new additions are considered. So, yes, the Tigers are penny-pinching a bit when it comes to free-agents and might feel they can get a bargain basement discount by waiting. That's what made them interested in Putz in the first place. But if they feel they can get a free agent for Putz's cost, without giving up the players, then waiting just could pay off.

That would make it tough for the M's to acquire any value for Putz. Detroit already has a depleted farm system and its front office is reluctant to give up too much more by "overpaying'' for a trade acquisition. We'll see what happens as the closers start signing. That Francisco Rodriguez deal is apparently done for three years, $37 million.

By the way, let's shoot down a rumor. I talked to a high-ranking Cubs official last night and ran that whole Carlos Silva-for-Kosume Fukudome trade rumor by him. He nearly choked on his beverage laughing. While the thing has a nice, symetrical feel to it, with both players owed three years and more than $30 million each, the official assured me he would "fall out of my (bleeping) chair'' if such a trade went through. And no, for the record, he has not heard that one is in the works.

Lastly, why all the teeth-gnashing over Mariners draft pick Josh Fields? The Mariners don't have to get him signed until June. The two sides are only $500,000 or so apart, so you know it can get done. Seattle is in the driver's seat on this one. And no, they don't have to sign Fields before trading Putz. They have to figure out who is going to be on their 2009 team first. If Putz is there, then there is no urgency to sign Fields and maybe you pass him over in favor of another first-round pick next June. If Putz is dealt, then the team can approach Fields, cough up the $500,000 extra if necessary, and move on from there. But there is absolutely no urgency on this matter right now. Fields is the one sitting at home stewing. He can't go anywhere.

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