With a 9 p.m. PT deadline looming, the Mariners offered 2008 contracts to left-handers Horacio Ramirez and George Sherrill, but not to lefty reliever John Parrish, and minutes before the deadline, traded first baseman Ben Broussard to the Rangers for middle infield prospect Tug Hulett.
Broussard was a valuable bench player last season, finishing with seven pinch-hits, including a grand slam against the Angels in Anaheim. He tied for the American League lead in pinch-hits and batted .275 overall with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.
When given the opportunity in September to play first base every day, Broussard batted .260 with no home runs and three RBIs in 73 at-bats.
He made $3.55 million and would have received a substantial increase via salary arbitration.
Hulett, 24, spent the 2007 season with the Oklahoma RedHawks, the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers. He batted .275 (142-for-517) with 31 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, 67 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. In four Minor League seasons, Hulett has a .280 career average with 127 extra-base hits and 83 stolen bases. He was selected by Texas in the 14th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft out of Auburn University and is the son of former Major League infielder Tim Hulett.
Sherrill was a rock in the bullpen, going 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in a career-high 73 appearances -- one more than he made in 2006. Though he doesn't have three full seasons of MLB experience, Sherrill falls into the "Super-Two" category, the top 20 percent of the two-plus year players.
The 30-year-old Parrish, acquired from the Orioles in August, made eight appearances and none of them were top quality. He surrendered 22 hits over 10 innings and ended the season with a 6.97 ERA.
His departure was not a surprise.
Keeping Ramirez around for at least the start of a new season seems to further indicate just how badly the Mariners need starting pitching. Ramirez, acquired from the Braves last December for right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano, had a winning record, 8-7, but his ERA was a robust 7.16 in 20 starts. He was so ineffective at the end of the season that manager John McLaren took the easy-going left-hander out of the rotation.
Seattle strongly pursued free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda from Japan, increasing an original three-year offer worth $36 million, to four years, but he apparently has decided to take less money and pitch for the Dodgers.
That could become official as early as Friday, pending a physical. Kuroda reportedly agreed to a three-year, $33 million offer for three reasons: the Dodgers will be playing their 50th anniversary season in Los Angeles in 2008, Joe Torre is the manager and Kuroda believes the Dodgers have a better chance of winning the National League West or Wild Card than the Mariners have of winning the AL West or Wild Card.
Losing Kuroda would be a big setback for the Mariners, who have added one potential starter -- R.A. Dickey via the Rule 5 Draft since the end of the season.
Dickey believes he fits nicely into the Mariners rotation the way it is.
"At my age  and with my experience, I think they fully expect me to make the team out of camp," Dickey told The Tennessean. "That's what they said to me when they called. Hopefully, it will be the start of a long career with them. I don't know if that'll happen, but it's exciting and it's good."
As of Wednesday, three of the five spots in the Mariners' projected rotation are occupied by Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista.
For the moment, at least, right-hander Brandon Morrow has the inside track on being in the rotation. But reports out of Baltimore say the Mariners and Orioles are still involved in trade talks that would send left-hander Erik Bedard to Seattle for Morrow and outfielders Adam Jones and Wladimir Balentien.
But if the Mariners lose out on Kuroda, the Orioles might seek even more for Bedard. So far, the Mariners have refused to include either Jeff Clement or Morrow in a trade for the top-of-the-rotation lefty.
While the Mariners still hope an impact starting pitcher can be purchased one way or another, Dickey thinks he has what it takes to be a huge help -- a knuckleball.
"I think what's appealing to [the Mariners] is being able to put the knuckleball between Felix Hernandez and some of their other guys," he said. "That's the beauty; it makes everybody better."
After posting a pedestrian record of 16-19 with a 5.72 ERA in five Major League seasons with the Rangers, Dickey developed the fluttering pitch that gives hitters fits and turned himself into the best pitcher in the Pacific Coast League last season, winning 10 of his 12 decisions after June 1.
Dickey said he threw the pitch "85 to 90 percent" of the time and he was able to throw a lot of strikes.
The Mariners paid the Twins $50,000 for Dickey and must keep him on the 25-man roster throughout the season or offer him back to Minnesota for $25,000. The teams also could work out a trade if the Mariners want to send Dickey to the Minor Leagues.
A good start: Jones, sent to the Venezuela Winter League to get some at-bats, has gotten off to a solid start for the Lara Cardenales.
The Mariners' projected right fielder beginning in 2008 was 10-for-33 in his first eight games, driving in five runs. After going hitless in 10 at-bats in road games against La Guaira last Saturday and Sunday, Jones went 2-for-4 in a home game against the same team on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Sean White is tearing up the league. He won his past two starts, posting a 0.64 ERA, allowing one run on nine hits and one walk over 14 innings. White, who went 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 15 relief appearances this past season, is 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in Venezuela.
FanFest set: The 10th annual FanFest is scheduled for Jan. 26-27 at Safeco Field. Manager John McLaren and several of his coaches, including new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, are expected to attend the two-day event and answer fans' questions.
As in previous years, several current and former players will attend the event, which unofficially kicks off the '08 season.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-14 (children under six get in free), and are available via mariners.com, at Ticketmaster ticket centers, and at the Safeco Field ticket office on the days of the events. Parking at the Safeco Field garage will be $5.
In addition to appearances by current and former Seattle Mariners players, fans will be able to tour the Mariners clubhouse, run around the bases, catch pop flies in the outfield and hit a home run over the center-field fence. Other events and activities include:
Dugout Dialogue: Question-and-answer session with Mariners players, coaches and legends. Hosted by members of the Mariners broadcast crew.
Inside the Game: Interactive baseball experience where fans can step into the world of big league baseball. Pick up a game-used baseball or bat, try on an authentic Mariners uniform, see how the grounds crew prepares Safeco Field for 81 home games each summer and much more.
Kids Zone: Photos with the Mariner Moose, face painting, Wiffle Ball batting cage, and much more for kids of all ages.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.