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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 18, 2008 10:17 AM

Dead period for trades

Posted by Geoff Baker

beltre.jpg

At least where the Mariners are concerned, this past week has turned into quite the dud on the trade front. Hard to remember, it was only a week ago yesterday that the M's partook in a 12-player, three-team deal that sent J.J. Putz, Sean Green, Luis Valbuena and Jeremy Reed packing, while Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman and four minor-leaguers came this way.

The M's don't appear nearly finished in their winter of moves. As many of you have mentioned, the club has about four closer candidates and eight starting pitchers. There is still not enough power in the offense. And some of the more obvious moves the team could make, with partners like the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins, don't appear close to happening.

In Milwaukee, once thought to be the biggest potential offseason trade partner for the M's, things are moving at a glacial pace on the deal front. I'm hearing that Brewers GM Doug Melvin is reluctant to fix his team via the trade route, even when it comes to what looked a week ago to be a simple swap of outfielders. Pitching-wise, the Brew Crew just signed Chris Capuano to a minor-league deal (completing a stunning fall from grace for him) and will likely explore other free-agent routes, like Derek Lowe of the Dodgers, before entertaining any trade scenarios.

From what I'm hearing in the baseball world, the Brewers might also be leaning towards hanging on to first baseman Prince Fielder for next season. Even with a hefty arbitration award to come and a starting rotation that isn't knocking anybody off their feet. Oh yeah, and no closer. Tough to compete for a playoff spot with that kind of pitching. The problem, though, is that the Brewers aren't sure they have anyone who can step in and replace Fielder if he's traded. They don't consider minor-league corner infielder Brad Nelson to be much of a fill-in. In other words, it would take a deal that would truly floor them.

All along, the Brewers have had interest in Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow. From here, I'd say Morrow and Jarrod Washburn would be the minimum it would take to get Fielder talks started. It might even take more than that. The Mariners and Brewers did speak at the winter meetings, hoping to find potential matches on the trade front. Those J.J. Putz-for-Fielder rumors were not true. It was never going to be a one-for-one main deal involving those two, Their names did come up at various times, but more in the exploratory stages of simply trying to match up the teams' differing needs.

Right now, the Brewers aren't even sure whether to value Morrow as a starter or a closer. There's some debate about that within that organization, as there is right here in Seattle. So, I would not expect anything on that front for now.

And in Minneapolis, there is now open talk about the Twins sticking in-house to solve their third-base needs because of the high asking price for Adrian Beltre of the M's and Garret Atkins of the Rockies. We told you last week about Beltre adding the Twins to his no-trade list. That complicates matters somewhat. But more pressing to the Twins is the fact they'd only have Beltre for one season, have to pay him $12 million for the privilege and then still give up a premium in trade returns to get him.

More and more, with the economy looking bleak and potential bargains out there for free agents, teams might be holding off on making any impact trades. Right now, it seems, standing pat is viewed as the way to go -- especially since spring training doesn't begin for roughly two more months. So, while January might be a time for some hot movement, the rest of December is looking like a nice time to get the real Christmas shopping -- the one done in stores -- completed without checking the Hot Stove circuit every five minutes.

Photo Credit: Rod Mar/Seattle Times

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