Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
December 11, 2008 11:16 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Last chance to call in for The Geoff Baker Show. The number is 206-464-8286. Just click this link right here to hear last night's post-trade broadcast.
What a past 24 hours it's been. As you can see in the photo, many baseball officials are now checking out of the Bellagio Hotel here in Las Vegas. Some of you wondered why all the trade talk down here seemed limited to closer J.J. Putz. There has been interest in Adrian Beltre. But not nearly as much.
Part of that problem is easily explained. One of the teams expected to go heavily after Beltre was the Minnesota Twins. But when they attempted to investigate a possible deal, they discovered that -- since the last time they'd looked into Beltre during the season -- he'd added the Twins to a list of teams on his limited no-trade clause.
Twins officials were somewhat surprised, though it's not unusual. When a player sees a team showing public interest in trading for him, they will sometimes ammend their no-trade to include that club and then use it as a bargaining chip down the road. Usually, some kind of cash settlement is needed.
In this case, the no-trade has gummed up the works a little bit. But I'm also told, by sources close to the issue, that this is a workable scenario. It just wasn't going to be worked out right away down here. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has been speaking with Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, down here. Zduriencik said it was primarily about draft pick Josh Fields and his negotiations with the team.
"I've known Scott for years and I've always had a lot of respect for Scott,'' Zduriencik said. "His whole group of guys. They're very professional and we've always had very, very cordial relationships.''
As for the Twins, the one outfielder they could possibly make available -- besides the expensive, underachieving Michael Cuddyer -- is former top-pick Delmon Young. Young would be an interesting left field addition for the Mariners, with the ability to play either right field or center as well. He would give them the power they are looking for. The question is whether the Twins would want to deal Young, who had issues with Twins coaches after his trade from the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett last year. As good as Beltre is, the Twins know they'd only have him for a year.
Minnesota has re-upped shortstop Nick Punto, so their one remaining big hole is at third base.
The Mariners, by the way, have long thought that Wladimir Balentien's best position is in left field. They wanted to get him playing time there last season, but the Curacao native had trouble showing he could handle everyday baseball. There was no way they were going to bump Raul Ibanez out of left, given his strong bat, to accomodate a youngster who could barely get a bat on the ball. By the time Balentien was called back up, his playing time became sporadic. This spring, he'll get a shot to show what he can do. So, that could be the team's biggest outfield power source. But Young is more proven in that department. I still think the M's try to upgrade in left. We'll see.
Zduriencik has headed up to his room to pack for the flight home. Before leaving, I asked him if he'd accomplished all he'd set out to do here.
"Well, we didn't come away with Mays or Mantle,'' he said with a shrug and smile. "But they weren't available. Yeah, I think we accomplished our goals. We've upgraded significantly in the outfield and made our team better.''
Zduriencik was active in today's Rule 5 draft, adding infielder Reegie Corona, 22, from the New York Yankees with the second overall pick. Corona, on the Yanks' Class AAA roster, could be the utilityman who replaces Willie Bloomquist on next season's team. Depends on what he shows next spring.
After the draft, Zduriencik traded for Minnesota Twins relief prospect Jose Lugo in exchange for cash. Lugo, 24, has a shot at making the bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning. He'd been taken by the Royals with the 11th pick in today's draft before Zduriencik made the trade with that organization.
In the Class AAA portion of the draft, the team chose reliever Patrick Ryan, 25, from the Brewers organization. Obviously, Zduriencik knows him well. He'll also get a look at the same sixth and seventh inning job.
Zduriencik told us before the draft that he wasn't targetting any specific positions. It was all about picking up the guys with the most talent who were still around. But clearly, the trading of Sean Green last night had left some bullpen holes. And the fact Zduriencik traded to get Lugo shows he's looking for some bullpen arms.