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November 19, 2009 at 5:45 PM

Window of exclusivity shutting on Mariners where Russell Branyan, other free agents are concerned

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Tomorrow is the start of the free-agency period, where the Mariners can window-shop for some of the bigger names from other teams. But those squads can do the same thing for Mariners’ free agents as well.
The only name Mariners fans should really be concerned about is first baseman Russell Branyan, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2009 and has expressed a desire to remain in Seattle. The M’s attempted to get a deal done during the 15-day window of exclusivity that followed the World Series, but, with that clock ticking down, nothing has been announced.
“Nothing is imminent,” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told me moments ago.
Now, there is nothing preventing the M’s from going out and signing Branyan tomorrow, or Saturday, or next Wednesday. That part won’t change, The only thing that will is that other teams will now be able to negotiate with Branyan as well — perhaps driving up his price.
“Any player goes into free agency, they’re testing to see what’s out there,” Zduriencik said. “And you become one of 30 clubs that can negotiate with him.”
As for Seattle’s other free agents, it was always assumed Adrian Beltre would test the open market, so the fact he hasn’t re-signed with Seattle is nothing to be surprised about. With Mike Sweeney, there will be limited demands for his services and the M’s want to see how their off-season starts slotting out before any commitments in that direction. Erik Bedard should attract some interest, but no one really knows how he’s going to rebound from shoulder surgery, so expect some incentive-heavy offers if and when anyone gets a handle on his progress. Miguel Batista? Safe to say he’s done in Seattle.
And so, there is Branyan. Let’s see what happens from here and whether the M’s get a deal squeezed in over the next few hours.
“We don’t have anything done right now,” Zduriencik said. “But that said, there’s nothing stopping the player from accepting an offer at any time.”
One thing of note that crossed my desk today.
Bill James just released his Strong Seasons Leading Index list of the 10 players he thinks are most likely to sustain or improve upon their high performances next year. He also put out a list of 10 players least likely to do so.
Guess which list Branyan made?


James isn’t very high on Branyan at all.
Branyan tied for the third-lowest score in the James index of any player coming off a strong season. James scores each player on a possible 38-point total. Anyone scoring 24 points or more is said to have a better-than-50-percent shot at maintaining or improving upon their performance next season.
Anyone 23 points or lower makes it unlikely they will top last year’s effort.
The lowest scoring player was Jorge Posada of the Yankees at eight points. Branyan scored 11 points, tying with six other players, including Ichiro. Hmm, that could make for some interesting internal team discussions, don’t you think?
Rays catcher Dioner Navarro scored the highest at 26 points. For a complete explanation of the methodology used, click right here.
Here are the complete lists:
TOP 10 MOST LIKELY TO IMPROVE
Dioner Navarro Tampa Bay Rays 26
Chris B. Young Arizona Diamondbacks 25
J.J. Hardy Minnesota Twins 25
Russell Martin Los Angeles Dodgers 24
Grady Sizemore Cleveland Indians 24
Dustin Pedroia Boston Red Sox 23
James Loney Los Angeles Dodgers 23
Ian Kinsler Texas Rangers 23
B.J. Upton Tampa Bay Rays 23
Nate McLouth Atlanta Braves 23
TOP 10 LEAST LIKELY TO IMPROVE
Jorge Posada New York Yankees 8
Matt Diaz Atlanta Braves 9
Craig Counsell Free Agent 9
Russell Branyan Free Agent 11
Jason Bartlett Tampa Bay Rays 11
Scott Podsednik Free Agent 11
Derrek Lee Chicago Cubs 11
Kendry Morales LA Angels of Anaheim 11
Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners 11
Rajai Davis Oakland Athletics 12

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