M's Posturing, Talking

If you are one of many Mariners fans wondering if and when your hometown team is going to make a splash in the newly opened free-agent market, then the question really isn't about when, it's about if.

Read all the rumors in all the newspapers and web sites you want, but none of that means anything when the vast majority of it is planted information to aid an agent or a team in negotiations.

The more you hear a rumor the least likely it seems how feasible it sounds. But the good news is, the Mariners are in serious talks with a few of the better free agents and no matter how much it is talked about, this we know to be true.

General manager Bill Bavasi has not confirmed or denied the rumor that the Mariners have negotiated with first baseman Carlos Delgado or his agent David Sloane.

Delgado is coming off of a mediocre season, for his standards, but still hit 32 home runs and most believe will return to being one of baseball's top left-handed sluggers in the game in 2005.

"Delgado still has a lot left in the tank," says one American League scout. "He is a perfect fit as a left-handed bat. His swing is built for Safeco, check out his second half numbers."

The recent rumors that northwest native Richie Sexson and the Mariners were very close to agreeing to a deal were premature, but here comes that word again; posturing.

It's possible, and probably even likely that both club and agent curiously allowed those rumors to spread to aid in their own ventures at the bargaining table. Sexson is contemplating a handful of very interested teams, including the M's, but nothing seems imminent on either end.

Delgado, too, has more suitors than originally thought and the Bronx Bombers are jumping into the fray.

"They get in on everybody, sometimes just to drive up the market," said an AL representative. "If they want him they could probably get him but I think they'd rather have the center fielder."

While that center fielder is clearly Carlos Beltran, the Yankees aren't the only team willing to spend money on this winter's prize player. Four teams have made offers to the 27-year-old switch hitter, three from the American League, including the Anaheim Angels.

Back home in Seattle, the word on the street, for what it is worth, is that the club will dive into the Adrian Beltre sweepstakes but pass on getting into a bidding war for Beltran. Beltre is being heavily courted by his own Los Angeles Dodgers club and the Mariners might be on the outside looking in if they wait too long.

One club's representative expressed his disbelief that the Mariners would guarantee a player such as Beltre any more than the $55 million final offer to Miguel Tejada last winter.

"The history of the team has been to play it safe. No reason to believe otherwise at this point," he said.

The Mariners need to make a big splash or two on the market to improve their club. But the biggest reason for splurging on unprecedented contracts is to shut up the naysayers around the league and prove to fans that they say what they mean and they mean what they say.

The M's negotiations with their own two free agents have yet to close out deals and left-hander Ron Villone is fielding offers from other clubs, including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Catcher Dan Wilson is said to be closer to striking a one-year contract with the M's but nothing is imminent.

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