It's clear the Seattle Mariners don't think they have enough starting pitching, and rumors persist that they're after the ace of the free agent market, John Lackey.
Such a move would give the team, with Felix Hernandez, as good a one-two punch as anyone in baseball. It's just not as likely as some other scenarios - including signing free agent Rich Harden.
Lackey is going to cost any team that gets him more than just a lucrative multi-year contract because he's a Type A free agent. That means giving up a draft pick.
Harden has drawn the attention of a half dozen teams, including the Red Sox, but comes with a buyer-beware warning flag. Think of him as a right-handed Erik Bedard.
Harden went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA with the Chicago Cubs last year in 26 starts. That's the most starts he's made since 2004, and the Cubs shut him down in September with fatigue in his throwing arm - then declined to offer him arbitration.
He's 28 and his best years were in Oakland, but he's pitched as many as 150 innings in a season just once - in 2004. A marvelous pitcher when healthy, the team that gets him is going to have to occasionally skip a start and give Harden extra days between work whenever possible.
He made $7 million last season and may command more in base salary now, with incentives added. Bedard made $7.75 milion in 2009, made 15 starts and has drawn the interest of a half dozen teams.
With pitching always at a premium, high-risk, high-reward chances are clearly worth taking for some teams. If the Mariners could land Harden in a deal that makes sense to them, they'd do it today.
Signing Lackey to a contract seems a more remote possibility. It would take most of their available payroll and set the market for Hernandez while leaving the team with holes to fill internally.
Still, it's kind of fun to have the Mariners considered bidders, isn't it?
And now, your daily links:
- The San Francisco Giants need offense and a third baseman, and they're looking hard at Adrian Beltre.
- The Phillies are said to be close to a three-year deal with Placido Polanco to play third base, and the Astros and Red Sox want him as a second baseman.
- If you're wondering which free agents were offered arbitration, here's a complete list. In all, 23 of the 70 players eligible got offers.
- Though he doesn't seem to be anyone's first choice, former Mariners closer J.J. Putz is on the radar of the Astros, Tigers and Rangers as a setup man.
- In a Q & A session, Pirates president Frank Coonelly was asked about former Mariner Jeff Clement playing first base in 2010, and talked about Pittsburgh's interest in free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel.
- Texas catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was taken out of a game in the Dominican Winter League after feeling discomfort in his arm. That worries the Rangers because Saltalamacchia had surgery on his right shoulder in September.
- What's going on in Boston? We told you Dustin Pedroia was enthused about a possible move to shortstop, and now the Red Sox are talking about free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson - and moving Mike Lowell from third base to first.