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December 3, 2009 at 9:32 AM

Oh Canada! Mariners seriously looking at Jason Bay and Rich Harden

Things are starting to heat up in the rumor mill as the baseball winter meetings approach. As colleague Larry Stone wrote yesterday, FoxSports mentioned the Mariners were pushing hard for British Columbia native Rich Harden to join their starting rotation. The Mariners have let other agents know that pitching is a priority for them at the moment and that other potential deals will be on the back burner.
In other words, don’t expect the catching situation to be bolstered for quite some time, likely not until well after the meetings in Indianapolis are done.
The Red Sox are also getting in on Harden and that’s not the only case where they and the Mariners are going head-to-head.
We’ve been told the Mariners have made a concerted push to land B.C. product and local resident Jason Bay, a Type A free agent left fielder from the Red Sox. This despite the fact that Bay (who gained his U.S. citizenship this year), is not the defensive whiz Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has prefered in other deals he’s made.
There have been prior rumors suggesting the Mariners might go after Bay, but those were usually greeted with skepticism, given his relatively poor ranking defensively in the outfield. Bay is particularly weak coming in on balls, something that plagued Raul Ibanez in his latter years playing the cavernous left field spot at Safeco Field. Bay is also a right handed slugger, which doesn’t play as well at the Seattle park as it does for lefties.
Photo Credit: AP

What Bay does bring to the table is a sorely-needed middle-of-the-order bat. So badly needed, that the M’s are willing to overlook some of his defensive liabilities. He posted a .921 OPS last season with 36 home runs and 119 RBI. Put him in left and re-sign Russell Branyan at first base and all of a sudden, the M’s would appear quite formidable on offense. This argument is apparently winning the Mariners over because they continue to get deeper into talks with Bay’s camp.
Bay is also being pursued by the Red Sox to re-sign with them. He’s a Type A free agent, meaning the Mariners would have to fork over a first-round draft pick to sign him.
Complicating things further is the presence on the market of another Type A left fielder, Matt Holliday. Both are similar players offensively, with Holliday the superior glove. There have been suggestions the Bay camp might wait to see what Holliday signs for in order to better gauge the market. But as the ESPN story I linked to above suggests, Bay’s agent says the offers made for his client will dictate how the process plays out.
I can tell you that I’ve heard from folks in the Seattle area that Bay (who lives in Kirkland) has been telling people he’s optimistic about signing here.
By the way, infielder Marco Scutaro, no longer in the Mariners plans because he’s a Type A free agent offered arbitration, told the Diario Panorama newspaper in Venezuela that the Red Sox have asked for his medical records, just to ensure he’s recovered from an injury suffered last season. Boston is thinking of shifting Dustin Pedroia to shortstop and needs a second baseman to fill that void.
But the interesting part for M’s fans is that Scutaro also told the paper the M’s approached him about playing second base, not third. Second base is, of course, Jose Lopez’s position. Here’s the pertinent quote:
“The Phillies are exploring options on third and Seattle called to play second, because it is rumored that they’re thinking to move Celestino (José Lopez), but they have not called more.”
Food for thought.
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Geoff Baker

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