Mariners -- M's Tino, Fleming Are Potential Cutbacks
PEORIA, Ariz. - For the first time, Seattle Mariner officials formally discussed the possibility of not tendering contracts to first baseman Tino Martinez and pitcher Dave Fleming.
The status of the three-year veterans, the team's only players eligible for salary arbitration, was the most significant item of business discussed yesterday during a conference call between team officials in Peoria and Seattle. Virtually the entire roster was scrutinized.
"Anybody not signed, not under contract, is up for discussion," said Lee Pelekoudas, Seattle assistant general manager. "We evaluated where we were and where we've got to go."
Part of the discussion undoubtedly was whether Fleming is harder to replace than Martinez. In any case, left-handed pitching is generally scarce. In the Mariner situation, Martinez's spot could be filled by younger players such as Greg Pirkl or Marc Newfield.
The payroll has been estimated as high as $32.5 million, not counting the $2 million contingency allotment for incentive bonuses and minor-league call-ups. That is more than ownership's loose guidelines of $29 million to $30 million.
An 11 percent reduction allowed in the recent back-to-work agreement between teams and players cuts the $32.5 million total to $28.9 million, plus the contingency. The Mariners could be looking to cut another $2 million to $3 million.
That savings would be impossible to reach if the Mariners
tendered contracts to Martinez and Fleming, which they are required to do by Friday. Contract negotiations have been difficult in both cases, and if each player won in arbitration, Martinez could get as much as $1.5 million and Fleming $1 million.
The Mariners may see how willing the two would be to sign for less before Friday's deadline, figuring that the glut of 115 free agents on the market in a short period of time will drive down the price.
"One option is to approach them before Friday," Pelekoudas said.
As far as free agents go, the Mariners are barely in the market, but should they drop players at a higher level, they could try to sign other major-leaguers for less.
For instance, since former Mariner Reggie Jefferson is on the market, they could try to get him back for about a fifth of what Martinez would cost.
M's early for first workout
With high spirits all around and handshakes and even hugs for Manager Lou Piniella and his coaches, the first wave of Mariners hit training camp this morning.
Twenty-one players, including infielder Doug Strange who came over from the minor-league side, were on the field for the first round of voluntary exercises and workouts - 10 minutes early.
"That's the first day," Piniella joshed as the players laughed through their stretching. "Tomorrow, they'll be 10 minutes late."
"It's impressive to seee guys like Junior, Jay, Boz here and eager to go from the start," Piniella said. "It bodes well for the camp, for the team."
The Mariners are expected to play a dozen exhibitions, closing out their belated spring in St. Louis, Apr. 24-25, for a two-game series against the Cardinals. They will work out in the Kingdome on Wednesday, April 26, and open the season - apparently April 27 - with the first of four home games against Detroit.
Those in camp were: pitchers Bobby Ayala, Chris Bosio, Jim Converse, John Cummings, Shawn Estes, Tim Harikkala, Kevin King, Derek Lowe, Jeff Nelson and Bob Wells; catchers Chris Howard and Dan Wilson; infielders Tino Martinez, Mike Blowers, Rich Amaral, Desi Relaford, Greg Pirkl and Strange; outfielders Jay Buhner, Darren Bragg, Ken Griffey Jr.
-- General Manager Woody Woodward had a contract discussion with agent Scott Boras about draft pick Jason Varitek, and the sides apparently are no closer than the $300,000 that previously separated them.
Varitek was the Mariners' first pick in last June's amateur draft.
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