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Mariners deal for rotation help

Mariners reportedly land starter from Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Mariners might have lost out on the Jason Schmidt sweepstakes Wednesday, but they may have wound up with a starting pitcher anyway.

A few hours after Schmidt told his former Giants teammates he had agreed to sign with the Dodgers, the Mariners reportedly had agreed to trade relief pitcher Rafael Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for left-handed starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez.

Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi denied that a deal had been consummated, although several sources confirmed that a trade could be imminent.

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Ramirez, who turned 27 on Nov. 24, certainly isn't the front-line starter the Mariners had wanted for their rotation -- he's pegged more as a No. 3-type starter.

But Ramirez is left-handed, induces a lot of ground balls and is a relatively low-cost option for the rotation. Better still, he won't be a free agent until after the 2010 season.

Ramirez -- who made $2.2 million last season -- was 5-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 14 starts for the Braves during an injury-plagued 2006 season.

How injury-filled? Consider that Ramirez suffered hamstring ailments in each leg early as well as a concussion after being hit in the head by a line drive.

But it wasn't until late July when he suffered a partial tear of the tendon pulley in his left middle finger that his season was deemed over by the Braves medical staff. Ramirez's finger didn't need surgery.

Ramirez's best season came as a rookie with the Braves in 2003 when he went 12-4 with a 4.00 ERA in 29 starts. He missed most of the 2004 season after having shoulder problems that eventually led to surgery.

In 2005, Ramirez went 11-9 with a 4.63 ERA and topped the 200-inning mark (202 1/3) for the only time in his career.

Soriano, who turns 27 on Dec. 19, became one of the top setup pitchers in the American League last season when he went 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 53 games. He was a dependable eighth-inning bridge to closer J.J. Putz (36 saves).

Soriano's season was cut short when he suffered a concussion after being hit in the head by a Vladimir Guerrero line drive in a game against the Angels on Aug. 29.

After missing the last month of the season -- persistent headaches prevented him from returning -- Soriano pitched in 10 games in the Dominican Republic, the first appearance of which was in mid-November.

As for Schmidt -- who is reportedly set to sign a three-year, $47 million deal with the Dodgers -- it's not known what factors may have kept the Mariners from landing the longtime Giants ace who was believed to be their No. 1 free-agent target.

Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti has lengthy ties to Schmidt, as he helped to acquire the right-hander from Pittsburgh during the 2001 season when Colletti was the assistant general manager for the Giants.

Perhaps another chip in the Dodgers' favor was that their new trainer, Stan Conte, was a longtime trainer for the Giants and is someone Schmidt is said to be very comfortable with and trusts.

Then there's the notion that Mariners brass might have been spooked by the market for free-agent pitchers and how the escalating costs of securing pitchers had apparently run rampant.

That's not to say the Mariners didn't make a substantial offer to Schmidt. In fact, Bavasi went as far to say Seattle's offer to Schmidt constituted a "boatload of money."

Bavasi even went as far as to speculate that Schmidt might have not intended to switch leagues in the first place, given his success in the National League West with the Giants.

"I'm not convinced of that," Bavasi said.

Should the Mariners deal for Ramirez become official, Seattle likely isn't done looking for upgrades for 2007, especially to the starting rotation. The club would still need to add one more starter for next season.

"There's still guys on the board ... we've got lines out to all of them," Bavasi said. "This one guy [Schmidt] is off the board at a hefty price. But it really doesn't change our goal to get starting pitching."

The Mariners have reportedly discussed Richie Sexson with a number of teams, including the Baltimore Orioles.

Seattle is thought to have interest in right-hander Rodrigo Lopez, who lost 18 games last season but was 2-0 against Seattle with a stretch of 15 scoreless innings.

Another possibility might be free agent right-hander Jeff Suppan -- who might be a better bet to return to the Cardinals now that Schmidt is off the market. Yet another free-agent right-hander, Miguel Batista, is also thought to be on Seattle's radar.

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

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