Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
December 12, 2008 9:43 PM
Posted by Larry Stone
Catcher Jamie Burke became a free agent Friday night when the Mariners declined to tender him a contract for 2009.
Burke was the only Seattle player to be non-tendered as the deadline for offering 2009 contracts to arbitration-eligible players passed at 9 p.m. Not surprisingly, they offered contracts to pitchers Erik Bedard, Felix Hernandez and newly acquired Aaron Heilman, their other arbitration-eligible players.
There was once speculation that Bedard might be non-tendered after he had shoulder surgery last September, but the injury doesn't seem as serious as originally feared. The Mariners hope to get a productive season out of Bedard, if for no other reason than to trade him at the July 31 deadline.
Burke, 37, was a useful backup catcher for the Mariners the past two years, finally finding a major-league home after kicking around for 15 years. The former Oregon State University punter was a victim of a catching glut in the Mariners' organization. They have Kenji Johjima signed for three more years, former No. 1 draft pick Jeff Clement battling for playing time, and Adam Moore rising rapidly through the minors -- not to mention Rob Johnson, who hit .305 for Tacoma. It's still quite possible one of those could be traded before Opening Day.
Burke becomes a free agent. He can still re-sign with the Mariners.