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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

December 8, 2009 at 8:37 AM

Updated: Beltre money cleared, but life ain’t Granderson for Mariners

Update 11:31: By all accounts, it’s a done deal: Curtis Granderson to the Yankees; starting pitchers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks; starter Max Scherzer, relievers Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke, and center fielder Austin Jackson to the Tigers. It’s a deal that works in different ways for each team, but it’s a clever transaction.

Update 11 a.m.: Jon Heyman of SI says the three-way trade involving the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Yankees is a done deal, pending physicals. That would send Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, and eliminate him as a Mariner target.

Update 10:50 a.m.: The New York Times, ESPN and many others say the three-way trade that would send Curtis Granderson to the Yankees is “very close”. The Yankees have removed prospect Michael Dunn from their package to the Tigers, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Scott Boras made the Mariners sweat last night — it’s what he does — but the decision of his client, Adrian Beltre, to decline arbitration opens up a whole world of possibilities for Jack Zduriencik.

Now they have an extra $12 million or so to spend on free agency — the amount they would have had to pay Beltre if he had accepted. It’s hard to say precisely how much money the Mariners have left to spend overall, because for one thing, we don’t know what their budget is. We can assume it will be around the same $100 million it was last year, but if the Mariners have a chance to add a player who might put them over that amount, but they are convinced will make them a strong contender, who’s to say they don’t have some wiggle room? I know many of you will be skeptical about that, but this ownership group in recent years has been generous with the payroll budget. I didn’t say smart; I said generous. We still don’t know the configuration of the Chone Figgins’ contract, and the infamous “contingency fund” is as murky as ever.

At any rate, the Mariners still have the means to do some big things, and I think they will, While they are definitely in the conversation for Jason Bay — there’s no question that Bay, who is a Kirkland neighbor of Seahawk linebacker Lofa Tatupu, would love to play in Seattle — the bidding is going to be high with the Angels and Red Sox involved. The Mariners’ continued involvement could hinge on just how much of a “hometown discount” Bay would be willing to give.

I’m beginning to sense the player they’d love to add is Detroit outfielder Curtis Granderson, whom the club views as a much more cost-effective option than either Bay or Matt Holliday, the other expensive free-agent outfielder. Granderson is owed $25.75 million over the next three years — a reasonable $5.5 million in 2010, $8.25 in 2011, $10 million in 2012, and a $2 million buyout of his $13 million option for 2013. By baseball standards, that’s not an onerous commitment for a 28-year-old All-Star (he turns 29 in March) who hit 30 homers last year, bats left-handed, would give the Mariners an air-tight outfield defense as a center fielder playing left, and is a high character guy as well.

As we know now, that possibility is about to expire, barring a last-minute collapse of the trade discussed earlier. For the Mariners to get involved, they would have had to give up numerous top pitching prospects from the group of Brandon Morrow, Phillippe Aumont, Josh Fields and Shawn Kelley — at least three of them, a price they either weren’t willing to pay, or was bypassed by the Tigers in pursuit of the deal they reached. Now the Mariners have those players to potentially offer in other trades.

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