A meeting of the mums
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariner officials had their long-awaited meeting yesterday in Miami with free-agent shortstop Alex Rodríguez and agent Scott Boras. Beyond that, neither side was saying much.
"Alex told us he is interested in coming back to Seattle," Mariner General Manager Pat Gillick said in a cautiously worded statement released by the club. "Now that we have ascertained his level of interest in returning, we will make organizational decisions with this in mind."
A club official said no offer was made. The assumption is that if one is forthcoming, it may be at baseball's winter meetings in Dallas, which begin today.
Neither side was being expansive about what happened in the meeting room of a Miami hotel. Boras did not return a phone call, nor did Mariner CEO and chairman Howard Lincoln or president Chuck Armstrong, who were in Seattle.
Boras is expected to attend the Dallas meetings, as will several other upper-level Mariner management personnel. However, Lincoln is not expected in Dallas, as the gathering does not directly involve owners.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported that the White Sox, one of five clubs believed most centrally involved in the Rodríguez derby, have offered Rodríguez a deal for six to eight years at $16 million to $18 million per season.
A Mariner official said the meeting in Miami lasted about three hours. It is unknown whether the sides have another meeting set.
The oblique statement released by the Mariners quoted Gillick, "We had a good discussion on a variety of issues. Alex has taken a keen interest in the scouting and player development part of a major-league franchise, and we were able to spend some time on the fine job Roger (Jongewaard) and our minor-league department do on drafting and preparing players for the majors.
"We also reinforced to Alex that our No. 1 priority at the Mariners is to win on a consistent basis. Everything we do as an organization is directed at accomplishing that goal.
"At today's meeting, we were also attempting to determine whether or not Alex really is interested in playing for the Mariners. Alex told us he is interested. ... "
Unclear is how deep the discussion went into potential sticky issues surrounding the negotiations: Boras' reported demand for a contract as long as 12 years at $20 million annually; an escalator clause that would keep Rodríguez at or near the top in baseball salaries; an "out" clause that could provide for Rodríguez's escape if the club is not on a satisfactory course; and his much-publicized belief that the fences at Safeco Field need to be moved in "substantially."
The Rodríguez sweepstakes should heat up in Dallas, with Atlanta, Texas, Colorado and the White Sox seen as the primary competition for the Mariners and teams like the New York Mets, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Dodgers still possible.
Although Boras might relish the prospect of standing on a podium with Rodríguez before the national media to discuss another record-setting contract, he said he's not about to rush the process for the sake of some extra headlines.
"There's never been another slugging shortstop to compare with Alex Rodríguez," Boras said. "I don't think anyone realizes how complex this negotiation is."
If Rodríguez needs any advice, a former teammate is ready.
Ken Griffey Jr., traded by the Mariners last winter to the Cincinnati Reds, said he knew exactly what he would tell Rodríguez.
"Just be patient," Griffey said yesterday at a charity bowling event in Manhattan. "Just hang in there.
"We talked a couple of times during the season, but not about this. If he asked my advice now, I'd give it to him or find someone who could help him."
Griffey got a $116.5 million, nine-year contract from the Reds. Rodríguez's deal is expected to dwarf that, no matter where he goes.
"If someone wants something and someone gives it to him, that's between the owner and player," Griffey said. "I have no problem with that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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