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January 30, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Bobby Abreu speculation, and more

So, how would Bobby Abreu look in the Mariners’ lineup? Pretty good, I’d say. Check out his numbers — they’re better than I even realized. He even stole 22 bases last year. I know at this point in his career he’s average defensively, at best, but as primarily a designated hitter, Abreu would a nice fit for the Mariners.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s the story I wrote for today’s Seattle Times. I talked to Abreu’s agent, Peter Greenberg, who said that he has been in regular contact with Jack Zduriencik and (assistant GM) Lee Pelekoudas. Abreu now realizes that this market is not going to provide him the multiyear blockbuster contract he had hoped for, and he’s apparently prepared to sign a one-year deal and hit the market again next year. But here’s the rub: The Mariners are telling Greenberg that while they see Abreu as a perfect fit, he doesn’t fit into their budget parameters at the moment. One thing I didn’t put in the story, but that Greenberg told me, is that the Mariners said to him, “If this were next year, it would be perfect. It (the budget) wouldn’t be an issue.” Next year, of course, the contracts of Jarrod Washburn ($10.35 million), Miguel Batista ($9 million), Erik Bedard ($7.75 million) and Adrian Beltre ($12 million) come off the books.
But for now, Greenberg indicated, the Mariners won’t be able to sign Abreu unless they can make payroll room (or bite the bullet and decide to go over budget). If speculation of a 20 percent payroll reduction is true, that would put their 2009 payroll goal at about $95 million. I have them at nearly $89 million for 15 players (Ichiro, Beltre, Silva, Washburn, Batista, Bedard, Johjima, Hernandez, Chavez, Lopez, Betancourt, Branyan, Cedeno, Walker and Guitierrez). The rest of the roster, as it stands now, will be filled with lower-paid guys, but obviously, there’s not much wiggle room — not enough for the $8 million to $10 million that Abreu would probably require for one season.
The best-case scenario, as I mentioned in the story, would be to trade Washburn, Batista or Silva ($11 million for 2009, $11.5 million for ’10 and ’11, $12 million option for ’12 with a $2 million buyout). I don’t see that happening without Zduriencik getting creative and throwing in a younger player with upside that would make it palatable for a team to take on a salary. Considering the Mariners’ catching depth, and the way they’ve been talking up Adam Moore, Jeff Clement seems the most viable candidate in that regard. No doubt teams will be asking for Brandon Morrow first and foremost. I wouldn’t go there.
Greenberg indicated that Abreu is getting antsy and that there was one proposal from another team that he was ready to move on. But he also made it sound like Abreu was intrigued by the Mariners. As I mentioned in a previous post, they have a large contingent of Venezuelans on the team already. Abreu would be the ninth Venezuelan if he signed with Seattle, joining Felix, Silva, Lopez, Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez, Cesar Jimenez, Reegie Corona and Ronny Cedeno. That’s got to have a lot of appeal to him.
Speaking of Venezuela, I received an e-mail yesterday from our old friend Augusto Cardenas, a journalist for the Diario Panorama newspaper in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Blog readers will remember Augusto as our Adam Jones liaison during the Mariners’ pursuit of Erik Bedard. It was Cardenas who tipped us off when Jones was pulled out of a winter league game and told reporters he had been traded to the Orioles. Three weeks later, it was official.
Cardenas joked in the e-mail that the Mariners should change their name to the Venezuelan Mariners. He provided some quotes from the new Mariner, Ronny Cedeno, who is playing winter ball in Venezuela:
About leaving the Cubs: “I’m a little bit sad, because I started my career with the Cubs, but this kind of thing happens. For me, it’s a new start. It’s a new beginning for Ronny Cedeno’s career.”
About being with the Mariners: “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to win a spot with the team and try to get an everyday job there.”
About the chance of playing second base: “I haven’t heard anything yet. The trade just happened, so I need to talk to my agent. Last year, I played second base, third base and even in the outfield, so I’m ready to play where the manager needs me and collaborate with the team. I’ll be ready for it. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to play and they will notice I can be helpful.”
One last thing: The Mariners have re-signed right-handed reliever Randy Messenger to a minor-league contract. Messenger was waived on Wednesday to create roster space for Cedeno and pitcher Garrett Olson, acquired in the Aaron Heilman trade with the Cubs. Messenger has been invited to major-league camp for spring training.
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