Mariners move forward without Kuroda

Mariners move forward without Kuroda

After traveling nearly 10,000 miles and using two trump cards to lure a Japanese starting pitcher to Seattle, only to take a called third strike on a close call, the Mariners must now look in a different direction to improve their rotation.

Going to the Far East didn't work, so how about trying the East Coast?

That is one of the possibilities as the Mariners regroup following the news that right-handed free agent Hiroki Kuroda had accepted a three-year, $35.3 million offer from the Dodgers -- nearly $3 million less than Seattle offered for the same span.

"We worked hard on this and gave it our best shot," manager John McLaren said. "We would have liked to have had him, but we have to move on and try our next option."

The next option might be resuming trade talks with the Orioles for left-hander Erik Bedard, a hard-throwing, top-of-the-rotation 28-year-old who has a 28-15 record over the past two seasons with 392 strikeouts and 126 walks in 378 1/3 innings.

But the cost of acquiring Bedard would be steep.

Any deal with the Birds would include Adam Jones, the Mariners' first-round Draft choice in 2003 and a potential Major League superstar. Seattle might also have to deal one of its up-and-coming catchers, Jeff Clement or Rob Johnson, and a young pitcher, possibly Brandon Morrow.

The Mariners so far have refused to include Clement and Morrow in any potential trade with anyone.

A source close to the Orioles said that the club believes the 22-year-old Jones would be a perfect fit -- an African-American star in a largely African-American community.

In that case, Jones could be even more important to the Orioles than Bedard would be to the Mariners, who won 88 games this past season and competed for a playoff berth until early September despite an erratic rotation.

However, the word out of Baltimore is that the Orioles believe they strengthened their bargaining power for Bedard last week by acquiring several of the Astros' best young players in a trade involving shortstop Miguel Tejada.

Houston swapped outfielder Luke Scott, third baseman Michael Costanzo, left-hander Troy Patton, and right-handers Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate for Tejada. Patton and Albers were candidates to be in the Astros' rotation next season.

Hot Stove

According to various reports, the Reds and Mets also are involved in trade talks with the Orioles for Bedard.

Meanwhile, the Mariners move forward without Kuroda.

General manager Bill Bavasi did not return phone calls, but assistant GM Lee Pelekoudas told the Seattle Times, "We're not just going down one path. We're going down parallel paths, investigating multiple things."

There are some free-agent starting pitchers on the market, but none of them is a top-of-the-rotation type. Published reports suggest that Seattle could be interested in right-handers Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse, and former Mariner Freddy Garcia remains available.

But no one out there piqued the Mariners' interest as much as Kuroda did, and not signing him definitely is a setback, especially after the club had gone so far out of the way to sign him.

McLaren was among the Mariners officials who traveled to Tokyo last month to meet Kuroda face-to-face over dinner. Former Japan stars Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johjima also attended the "recruiting" session.

The Seattle delegation returned home believing that going the extra mile -- in this case, 9,568 miles -- enhanced the organization's chances of signing the 32-year-old to a multi-year contract.

But it was not to be.

Seattle was one of four organizations bidding for Kuroda's services and the second to offer four years. Kansas City was the first, dangling a four-year, $48 million offer in front of the hurler.

But Kuroda said that he wanted a three-year contract, so the Mariners backed off their four-year offer and increased their three-year proposal from about $33 million to $38 million, and invited Kuroda to visit Seattle. The invitation was declined.

In the end, the "Shiggy Factor" might have played a role in Kuroda choosing the Dodgers over the Mariners.

Former Major League pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who spent the final four years of his nine-year career with the Mariners, currently lives in Southern California and advised Kuroda during the decision-making process.

"We talked a bit," Kuroda said of Hasegawa during Sunday's press conference at Dodger Stadium. "Weather was something we talked about. I wanted to make a decision that would allow me to perform at my best.

"The Los Angeles environment, the community and the weather, were major factors. Hasegawa and [Dodgers closer Takashi] Saito both agreed that the environment in Los Angeles was great."

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