Mariners out of Santana sweepstakes
Seattle no longer discussing deal for Twins starting pitcher
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Mariners have dropped out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes.
A high-ranking American League official confirmed Monday afternoon that the Mariners were no longer discussing a deal for the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner, who becomes eligible for free agency at the end of the 2008 season.
Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, who is heading the Seattle contingent at the annual Winter Meetings, told reporters Monday night that he wasn't completely ruling out the prospect of getting a "Santana-type" pitcher.
Bavasi refused to discuss the Twins left-hander by name because the pitcher isn't a free agent, but wasn't quite ready to give up trying to land a top-of-the-rotation hurler.
"You would have to ask the Twins, but I wouldn't say we are completely out of it," he said. "They may have some other deals they're trying to cultivate ahead of ours. I don't know that for a fact, but that's how I would characterize it."
It now appears that Santana will go to either the Yankees or Red Sox via a trade, or stay with the Twins for at least half of the 2008 season.
Seattle's best hope, then, would be for the Twins to strike out in their dealings with the Yankees and Red Sox, lower their asking price, and return to the negotiating table with Seattle. But even then, there is no guarantee Santana would sign a multiyear contract with Seattle.
Sources say Santana, a Venezuela native who has a home in Miami, wants to play for a team on the East Coast.
Seattle, which is trying to bolster its starting rotation, had visions of putting the 29-year-old Santana in the same rotation as 21-year-old Felix Hernandez, giving the Mariners a terrific one-two punch.
But the combination of losing some of their top prospects, including projected right fielder Adam Jones, and possibly spending close to $150 million over six years for the left-handed Santana, prompted club officials to back off and pursue starting pitching elsewhere.
Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, a 32-year-old free agent who also is being courted by the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Phillies and Royals. Seattle is believed to have offered Kuroda a four-year contract.
A Diamondbacks official said he has heard that the Mariners are the odds-on favorite to secure Kuroda's services. The Dodgers appear to be as eager to sign Kuroda as the Mariners.
Kuroda isn't expected to make a decision until after the Winter Meetings, which are being held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and end Thursday morning.
Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson emerged on Monday as a potential starting candidate. The former Dodgers farmhand, drafted during Bavasi's tenure in Los Angeles, reportedly is available for either a young catcher or a more established outfielder/first baseman.
The Mariners might be willing to send catcher Rob Johnson to the Rays, or possibly Ben Broussard, who can play the outfield and first base.
The 24-year-old Jackson went 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA in 31 starts for the Rays last season, but he performed much better in the second half of the season (4-6, 4.48 ERA) than the first half (1-9, 7.23 ERA). The right-hander has had his fastball clocked as high at 98 mph.
Jackson saw limited duty with the Dodgers in 2003-05, compiling a 6-4 record in 19 appearances, 14 of them as a starter. The Rays used him almost exclusively as a reliever in '06 -- he made one start in 24 appearances -- and moved him into the rotation this past season.
Seattle also has checked into the availability of Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard, but apparently hasn't ventured beyond first base. The Birds want four players with Major League experience or are on the verge of reaching the big leagues.
Baltimore would want a center fielder, probably Jones, a starting pitcher, a catcher and a middle infielder. That's more than the Twins are asking for Santana.
Bavasi said the first day of the Winter Meetings were "unproductive."
"We met with some agents of free agents and made contacts with other clubs and scheduled some meetings," he said, adding that Baltimore is one of the organizations on Tuesday's agenda.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.