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December 5, 2007 at 10:06 PM

Heading home

This is the scene around me in the media room as I type out this post. The annual winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center won’t be officially over until after tomorrow morning’s Rule 5 draft. But it sure feels like they’re done.
Here’s the scoop on the M’s for now…
It looks like they may have offered that fourth year to Japanese free agent Hiroki Kuroda. GM Bill Bavasi spoke to us tonight and confirmed that his club had upped more than one offer to free-agent targets. Bavasi wouldn’t name names, but when asked about going from three to four years on a pitcher, he offered up this tidbit:
“Sometimes you have to assume that you’re signing the right guy,” Bavasi said. “If you’re going to go out and sign a free agent pitcher you have to have the confidence to feel like you’re singing the right guy.
“And if you are and he’s healthy, and you think he’s going to stay healthy,” he added, “why wouldn’t you want to have him for three or four years? Because the market keeps going up. In that third and fourth year, you may have a very cheap option.”
Yes, he said, it is obviously a risk. If the pitcher goes down in Year 1, it could be big trouble. But as Bavasi said, a pitcher who stays healthy through those latter years could be yours for significantly below market prices. That said, it’s still a risk given the uncertain nature of pitchers’ arms.
That fourth year takes the package up to the $40 million range, if indeed it’s what the M’s did today. Bavasi never gives names or details of anything he’s in the midst of negotiating, but he seemed to be suggesting strongly that he’d gone that fourth year. If I’m wrong, it’s all on me. Kuroda, as far as I know, is still planning a tour of prospective cities next week.
Despite what you may have heard or read, the Mariners are not back in on the Johan Santana talks any more than they were yesterday or two days ago. They are on a back burner. The Mariners could get back into the mix as a fallback plan should talks completely fall apart between the Twins and Red Sox (or Mets), but for now the M’s are Minnesota’s Plan C or D. Or maybe zero. They are not in-play. Do not believe anything else.
Bavasi says his team is “in-play” on only one of the three pending deals for top pitchers Santana, Dan Haren and Erik Bedard. We know it’s not Haren, since Bavasi is loathe to deal in the AL West, and we know it’s not Santana.
That leaves Erik Bedard. The M’s, I’m still told, are the best fit as a trade partner where the Orioles are concerned. That’s not from Bavasi, it’s coming from the Baltimore side. There is still a gulf between what the O’s want and what other teams are willing to pay.
Baltimore wants major league ready pitching in the Bedard deal, as do the Twins for Santana. We saw the Dodgers balk at offering set-up man Jonathan Broxton to the O’s. Bavasi and the M’s will try to find the right fit without hurting themselves for years to come.
Again, there is a gap that needs covering here. Seattle is viewing the mega-deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers as one that cost Detroit two good prospects — Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller — and four decent minor leaguers.
In their view, the Tigers got two “monster players” for only two top prospects and filler. So what is the price, they wonder, of one “monster player” that Bedard or Santana, would represent.
When you look at that line of thinking and the pricetag being asked by Baltimore and Minnesota, you realize why no trades are getting done here. Will things change? It might. If Seattle wants Bedard badly enough, it doesn’t matter what Bavasi and the Mariners think of the prospects in the Detroit-Florida trade. All that matters is what the O’s and Twins think.
If they feel the Tigers gave up six top prospects, then their opinion is all that will count. The price will be at least three top prospects for one “monster” pitcher. Not one or one and a half. Follow?
The good news is, from all I’m hearing, nobody has trumped anything the M’s have put forward. The bad news? O’s president Andy MacPhail still doesn’t like what he’s been offered. And the beat goes on…



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