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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 16, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Adrian Gonzalez would be the dream conclusion to this offseason

adriangonz.jpg

(Cliff Lee is officially a Mariner. Pursuit of that story tied me up all morning, as you can well imagine. I started this post before 10).

Our friends at Fox Sports (Motto: No rumor left unturned) stirred the pot this morning with this report that the Red Sox are going hard after Adrian Gonzalez.

Yes, the same Fox Sports that reported last week that the Mariners were going after Gonzalez — as Seattle did last year at the trade deadline. Remember this blockbuster Baker blog post?

I stirred the pot a little this morning as well, tweeting (yes, tweeting) that the Mariners weren’t going to let the Red Sox get Gonzalez without a fight. Because the M’s covet Gonzalez just as much as the Red Sox.

Jack Zduriencik has done great work so far this winter, landing Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee. The cost has been money ($36 million total for Figgins, $8 million of which will be paid in 2010; and $9 million for Lee, his 2010 salary) and players (three very good prospects — Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez to the Phillies for Lee.

I get the sense that Zduriencik is not done. He knows the one remaining need for the Mariners is a run-producing bat, and I suspect that will be his next target. The Mariners, I think, sense that the gap with the Angels is closing fast, and they’d like to accelerate the process even more. If the Padres come to the decision that they will trade Adrian Gonzalez — no guarantee, because it would be a hugely unpopular move by new GM Jed Hoyer — the Mariners will do their very best be a player.

Let me make myself clear: I’m not saying they’re going to land Adrian Gonzalez. Free agent Jason Bay is still sitting out there as an option. But if the Padres decide to trade Gonzalez, the Mariners will try to get him. So will numerous other teams, but Seattle and Boston seem to be more viable options for San Diego.The reasons for Seattle’s high interest should be obvious — Gonzalez is affordable, almost ridiculously so for a player of his caliber ($4.75 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011), and he perfectly fits a Mariner need — left-handed power.

But the Padres will ask a huge price for Gonzalez, as they should. It’s the only way they could possibly justify the deal to already jaded fans. Can the Mariners a) satisfy San Diego and b) out-bid the Red Sox? It will be tough, especially if the Sox are willing to throw in both Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury, as Fox implied. But the Mariners have some pieces to throw at San Diego, as well, even after the Lee trade. There’s still Brandon Morrow,, whom the Padres like. As Shannon Drayer suggested last week, Jose Lopez could be enticing to the Padres. There’s still Carlos Triunfel and Shawn Kelley and all the other names we’ve been hearing all winter.

Hoyer, don’t forget, came to San Diego from Boston, where he worked closely with GM Theo Epstein. That could facilitate a deal with the Red Sox. On the other hand, I’ve had people involved with the Brewers organization tell me they are actually more cautious in dealing with Jack Zduriencik because they know how well he knows Milwaukee’s personnel. So it could work either way.

Don’t get too excited. It’s a long shot. But if and when Adrian Gonzalez becomes seriously available, rest assured the Mariners will be seriously interested.

(Photo by Associated Press)

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