Mariners decline new contract for Burke
Hernandez, Heilman and Bedard are now eligible for arbitration
The Mariners offered 2009 contracts to all but one of their unsigned players on the 40-man roster.Right-handed pitchers Felix Hernandez and newly acquired Aaron Heilman, as well as left-hander Erik Bedard, are eligible for salary arbitration. The two sides can either agree to a contract for the '09 season or advance to the arbitration process. With young depth at the catching position, and veteran Kenji Johjima's new three-year contract kicking in next season, two-year backup catcher Jamie Burke is now a free agent. The 37-year-old receiver can negotiate with all 30 Major League teams, including the Mariners. The combination of his age, being eligible for salary arbitration and the stocked catching position, which includes 25-year-olds Jeff Clement and Rob Johnson, along with 24-year-old Adam Moore, made Burke expendable. Burke appeared in 48 games for the Mariners last season, batting .261 with one home run and eight RBIs. His most memorable moment came during a game against the Tigers at Safeco Field on July 6. Burke made his Major League pitching debut, pitching the 15th inning. He surrendered one run and absorbed the loss. The Roseburg, Ore., product could not be reached for comment.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.