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December 4, 2007 at 11:24 AM

M’s hope ship hasn’t sailed

I don’t know why there’s a boat sailing down a canal in the middle of an indoor hotel complex. One of the great mysteries of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. But the mystery we’re all more concerned with is whether the Mariners can come away from these meetings with any sort of pitching upgrade. We’re all still waiting for an announcement on a deal for Johan Santana, with the Boston Red Sox appearing to have an edge over the New York Yankees at this stage. I’m not fully convinced the Yankees are out of it, though they do seem to want to make a point about the Twins missing their so-called Monday deadline for a deal.
But anyway, this doesn’t concern the Mariners. What does is getting in on someone who can make a difference in the rotation. How desperate are they? Apparently, not desperate enough to go four years in length on free-agent Hiroki Kuroda, as one report had it yesterday. As I mentioned last night, four years seems far too long. Forget about former M’s pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa apparently advising Kuroda to head towards Los Angeles (where Hasegawa now lives). Hasegawa and Kuroda would be fools to turn down a four-year, $44 million offer from anyone for a 32-year-old pitcher who could turn into the Japanese version of what one analyst described as “an NL stiff” attempting to switch over to the AL.
Hasegawa’s fondness for Los Angeles is being, I think, somewhat overstated. We wrote last summer about how the reason why he was moving out of the Seattle area and heading to LA was because he wanted his ballplayer son to play in a more competitive Little League over there. The little Hasegawa was a second-team all-star back in his Washington-based Little League and the elder ballplayer wants to see how far his kid can go.
Big difference between that and telling a guy to turn down $44 million. Want more thinking? If Hasegawa is angling Kuroda towards the Dodgers, it’s because he knows the transition to big-league ball for a pitcher will likely be much smoother in the NL — especially the hitting-light NL West.
But as far as we know, Kuroda hasn’t been offered four years by anybody. We do know that the New York Mets have jumped into the fray and apparently talked a big enough money game to move up to the front of an expanding pack of suitors for Kuroda’s services. Not good news for M’s GM Bill Bavasi and company. If any team is crazy enough to go four years, $44 million on Kuroda it would be the Mets. Not sure the M’s want to get bidding to that level, given the risks. But then again, Kuroda just could be the best of the rest after the elite pack of Santana, Erik Bedard and Dan Haren. Lose out on him and the M’s could miss the pitching boat entirely.
Hey, there’s always Edwin Jackson. Uh-huh. That would make for quite the fifth starter’s battle at spring training. Not sure it would sell many season tickets.
Oh yeah, that Bedard guy. Unlike the Santana derby, the M’s can make an impression on the Orioles with an offer of Adam Jones, Jeff Clement and Brandon Morrow. May even get a deal done with that. But as I mentioned last week, that’s a steep price to pay for a pitcher who hasn’t gone 200 innings in a season yet. Bedard is the team’s biggest chance to make a splash and perhaps an impact on its playoff fortunes. But the Navan, Ont. native represents quite a risk. Can he stay healthy? I was dead-set against dealing the Big Three prospects to get Bedard a week ago. Now? I’m not so sure. It was one thing when the M’s had a choice between Bedard and Santana. Now? No choice. It’s been made for them.
Hear my thoughts on this issue right here. I’m not reversing my stance entirely, but the dynamics have obviously changed and the M’s can’t afford to come away from here without at least a shot at some pitching upgrade. No Bedard, or Kuroda, and it’s debatable whether that can be accomplished.
Speaking of missing the boat, how about the M’s passing on a draft pick by not offering arbitration to Jose Guillen? As we mentioned last night, Guillen has a three-year, $36-million deal with the Royals. There was no way he was going to turn that down and come back to the M’s for one season at an arbitrator’s appointed salary. The M’s “exposure” on Guillen was pretty minimal, but they passed. They now have to hope that the missed draft pick doesn’t come back to haunt them down the road. No more Guillen also leaves the outfield somewhat thin if they do decide to trade Jones for Bedard.
Right now, it’s time to go prowl the lobby and try to make sense of what’s happening. Remember, it’s unlikely anything major will go down until the $150 million elephant leaves the room. That would be Santana getting traded, not the elephant pictured below. I told you this place was strange.



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