Mariners looking many different ways

Mariners have lots percolating at meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Mariners opened the Winter Meetings with a splash, signing free-agent outfielder Jose Guillen and finding themselves a participant -- willing or otherwise -- in the swirl of Manny Ramirez rumors.

A day later, the Mariners took a step back from Monday's frenetic pace by settling into a much-slower rate of progression, one that several other teams have fallen into this week.

Just consider it all quiet on the player-acquisition front.

On the second day of the Winter Meetings at the Dolphin Hotel, Seattle didn't sign a single player though it may have well inched closer to making a change to their roster for 2007.

Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi indicated Tuesday night that the Mariners might be leaning more toward making a trade rather than diving -- like some teams have -- into the pricey free-agent market for upgrades.

"We are a little bit closer on the trade front and microscopically closer on the free-agent front," Bavasi said. "A trade is closer as of tonight."

And, no, that doesn't mean obtaining Ramirez.

Bavasi declared the Mariners interest in the Boston slugger "dead ... that's the end of it" during a meeting with reporters, ending a day's worth of speculation that had the All-Star left fielder potentially headed to Seattle as part of a three-way deal that included the San Francisco Giants.

Boston manager Terry Francona told XM Radio in an interview that Ramirez was likely staying put.

"I don't see it happening," Francona said.

While the potential three-way deal was ruled dead by Bavasi, the Mariners might be willing to engage in a different three-way trade -- with the Giants and Atlanta Braves.

A rumor circulating Tuesday night suggested that Seattle might have interest in sending slugger Richie Sexson to the Giants and reliever Rafael Soriano to the Braves. In return, the Mariners would receive a starting pitcher (Tim Hudson) and a first baseman (Adam LaRoche).

The Braves -- who are shopping for relief help -- would then also receive relief pitcher Armando Benitez from the Giants.

Hudson, 31, was 13-12 last season with a 4.86 ERA for the Braves and has a career record of 119-60. LaRoche is a left-handed bat with power. He hit 32 home runs and drove in 90 runs last season.

By adding a pitcher like Hudson, the Mariners would avoid spending more money than they want on starting pitching in the free-agent market, which continues to escalate with the recent signings of Vicente Padilla by the Rangers (three years, $33.75 million) and the three-year, $24 million deal 35-year-old Miguel Batista might be getting from the Royals or Cardinals.

The Mariners were linked to free-agent pitcher Barry Zito in one report Tuesday. Bavasi was asked if the Mariners would offer a starting pitcher six years -- which is the length of terms Zito is said to be looking for.

"I would never say never, but it's not likely," Bavasi said.

The Mariners continue to have interest in free-agent pitcher Jason Schmidt, though he's now being courted by the Cardinals as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"There are a number of teams that have made very attractive proposals," Schmidt's agent, Randy Hendricks, told "So there's a lot going on, a lot of discussions, a lot to think about. I wouldn't want to give you a timetable. Whatever I would guess would probably be wrong anyway."

The Mariners apparently aren't in the running for left-hander Ted Lilly, who is coming off a 15-win season with the Blue Jays in 2006.

Seattle officials met with Lilly's agent, Larry O'Brien, on Tuesday afternoon but O'Brien told reporters that talks with the Mariners were "fairly preliminary." O'Brian said that he would check back with the Mariners, though it's clear Lilly's focus has turned to both the Cubs and Blue Jays, his former club.

The Cubs and Blue Jays are believed to have made Lilly contract offers that cover four years and exceed $40 million. He might fetch even more than that, considering what Padilla got on Monday.

Corey Brock is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.