M's can do with, without A-Rod
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Mariners are now prepared to focus on Alex Rodriguez after signing Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki to a three-year package of $15 million to $18 million, which includes a bonus and incentives.
"We want Alex back," General Manager Pat Gillick said from Peoria, Ariz., where he has been visiting the club's training-camp facility. "But we're waiting on Boras."
The Mariners have not been able to make an offer to Rodriguez's agent Scott Boras, but a National League club executive said rumblings that this talk of $20 million per year for 10 years and beyond may be no more than "dreamy demands."
"Alex may be worth a lot more than Carlos Delgado ($17 million a year from Toronto)," the executive said, "but, as they say in the stock market, there is a resistance level, and this $20 million talk may be that level."
Boras used the word "flush" when talking up the market for his All-Star shortstop, whose overall ability puts him at the top of major-league play.
But the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies, all expected to be key players in the Run for A-Rod, have gone public with their refusal to pay the much-speculated $20 million-plus, so questions remain about how many teams are involved.
And how involved they are.
The Mariners, for one, are highly unlikely to reach $20 million a year when they get to make an offer. With only a dozen players signed for 2001 and the payroll about $50 million, the Mariners have to be wary of overreaching, especially with holes in the bullpen and on the bench and, once they trade Al Martin back to the National League, left field.
Best guess is that the Mariners will come in at $16 million to $18 million, which may be about the same as the Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians might offer.
"I know the Mariner people think the Braves are one team Rodriguez would like to play for," an American League scout said. "But Atlanta needs to shore up its rotation, first of all. So they have to be after Mike Hampton.
"Most of all, though, Atlanta has always paid attention to a payroll structure. They signed their guy, Chipper Jones, for $15 million a year. They may give a lot more for Alex, who is a special guy and a shortstop, too. But it would be going against their history to do it."
One team that may get to $20 million is the Texas Rangers, whose owner, Tom Hicks, is reportedly trying to throw money at Rodriguez, Hampton and outfielder Sammy Sosa, if the Rangers can trade for him.
If Rodriguez goes to the Rangers, it would be a money play. Rodriguez has been no fan of playing in the heat, and the Rangers do not meet his stated requirement for a contending team.
If the Mariners' bid for Rodriguez is not productive, and soon, look for the club to open negotiations for Toronto free-agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
"Our preference is to have A-Rod back," Manager Lou Piniella said. "I'm going to talk to him myself, do my Butch Davis-recruiting thing. But there's a question of how long this goes."
Boras was busy last week, spending much of his time countering declarations by the Mets and White Sox that his demands were too exorbitant.
The agent said he used what Seattle had done for its players, Rodriguez among them, in discussions with other teams.
"But we made no such demands," Boras said. "I only expressed the opinion that these were nice things to do for your players."
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