The New York Mets came sniffing around free agent first baseman Russell Branyan this week, which might be good news for the Seattle Mariners.
True, the Mets could certainly throw down a larger offer than Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has made, but what Branyan is far more likely to find out is that a two-year deal for him doesn't exist on the open market.
That's what he wants in Seattle, and it's the sticking point in negotiations, so far.
From Branyan's point of view, a multi-year deal is understandable. At 33, he had the best season of a career that began in 1994 and has - so far - included stops with seven teams. He's never had job security, or a large payday by baseball standards.
For the Mariners, meanwhile, the issue is Branyan's back and whether it can stand up to a 162-game season. In 2009, he batted .251 with 31 home runs and 78 RBI, playing in 116 games. That's sweet production, but after the All-Star break he hit just .193.
Branyan is testing a market that's a little gray in the tooth, with more than 60 free agents 35 years old or beyond. His salary last season was $1.4 million, so he's certainly an affordable pickup.
But the Mets aren't Branyan's answer to Zduriencik's approach. New York is looking at a one-year offer, too, as will most every team that inquires.
Branyan is wanted in Seattle, where teammates and fans love him, Safeco Field is built for him and he has a manager who supports his desire to be an every day player.
What he's likely to find on the market is no better - and certainly no longer - than what the Mariners are offering.
- Miguel Cabrera is 26, has a career batting average of .311 with 209 home runs and 753 RBI - so why would the Detroit Tigers be willing to trade him? Probably because of the contract they signed him to, which has six years and $126 million left on it.
- Add Cabrera: ESPN's Buster Olney has a list of teams that could be a fit, and one of them is the Mariners.
- A day after Joe Mauer won the American League MVP, columnist Patrick Reusse writes about why the Twins selected Mauer in the draft instead of pitcher Mark Prior. And he talks to Mauer's mother about why she won't let her son take a gun up in a tree. Really.
- Want to know how the contract for Ken Griffey Jr. breaks down next season? Well, his base salary is $2.35 million, but as Greg Bell explains, Junior can make $3.9 million in 2010.
- In Chicago, manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams took their arbitration-eligible closer to task for poor conditioning. Listed at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, Bobby Jenks isn't anyone's physical fitness poster boy, but catcher A.J. Pierzynski couldn't care less. "I don't even pay attention. As long as he gets guys out, I don't care if he weighs 500 or 100," he said.
- Mariners fans wouldn't mind seeing the Angels lose free aget John Lackey, but they won't be heartened by this - Los Angeles is talking to Toronto about ace Roy Halladay. At the trade deadline in July, the Angels and then Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi couldn't agree on a deal. Now new Jays GM Alex Anthopolous is open to talks - and would allow another team to talk contract extension with Halladay if a trade is agreed upon.
- We told you last week it was in the offing, now it's official: John Halama signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee and will be invited to spring training with the Brewers. Halama, 37, pitched for seven teams in parts of nine seasons from 1998-2006, but hasn't been in the majors since. He's 56-48 with a 4.65 ERA.