It sounds to me like the Red Sox backed off of Lester's untouchability, leaving Papelbon on that list, which makes sense because Papelbon will help the 2006 Red Sox right away, as he did last season.
But they still aren't keen on Lester for Reed. Heck, they aren't keen on Arroyo for Reed right now, but that isn't due to their perceived value of the two players.
If they deal Arroyo, for any non-SP, and then they deal Wells, as they are trying to do, then the Sox are short a starter.
And they are also trying to deal Clement, for financial purposes... so they value Arroyo more than his performance value suggests they should, but it's justified.
When the M's are quoted as saying they are looking for "bench help", they aren't talking about Scott Hatteberg (good), Russell Branyan (darn), or a middle infielder.
They are talking about their backup catcher's spot.
No GM in their right mind would lazily pass on potential upgrades in that department when your starting catcher is a rookie to U.S. baseball, will have some semblance of a language barrier and the club has very little idea (as does everyone else) how his offensive or defensive skills will translate to the MLB game.
So why feel good about going into the season with Rene Rivera as the backup? That is certainly no safety valve, as Rivera's 24 career games played strongly suggests.
Rivera has adequate defensive skills and isn't terrible offensively, but the chances that he continues his big-league production are slim, as veteran pitchers quickly find his offensive weaknesses and he has quite a few.
The biggest question is "how can he handle the pitching staff?"
This is why adding a veteran is advisable, and something the club is looking into with some vigor.
Potential trade targets include Geronimo Gil of Baltimore, Toby Hall in Tampa Bay, Josh Bard in Cleveland, Javier Valentin in Cincinnati and Washington's Keith Osik.
Currently, the Devil Rays are asking for the world in exchange for Hall, and Cleveland is unwilling to part with Bard unless the deal results in a B-level prospect or better.
Valentin's costs in salary and trade may price him off the market for most teams and the Reds may end up keeping both he and starter Jason LaRue.
Barring a trade of Reed to Boston, or possibly elsewhere for starting pitching, the Mariners' starting rotation is set for the start of 2006.
In no particular order, of course, as the M's say they will use Hernandez as their fifth starter in order to curb his workload - which is the best news the front office has given M's fans all winter, even if most of the Mojo Maniacs don't realize it.
Early line on the opening day starter?
My money is on the safe bet, Jamie Moyer.
The club feels pretty confident that 2006 will be Moyer's final season but he's the steadiest of the bunch and has handled the duties on a few previous occasions.
Washburn wouldn't even be my second choice. If Moyer wasn't ready or the club wanted to give the honor to another, I'd bet on Pineiro, if healthy.
Not a bad way to give mucho confidence to a pitcher that needs that slap on the back following two awful seasons in which he battled injury and inconsistency.
Pineiro would have to pitch well in spring training to even be considered, and this would likely only happen if Moyer is unavailable.
Over at LookOut Landing, Jeff Sullivan has a fun piece up about potential breakout seasons (and collapse seasons).
I'd put a good parlay down on Pineiro and Reed from Sullivan's list. I like what Pineiro did the final six weeks of 2005 and though I don't expect him to return to the form of 2003, I think it's reasonable to think he could turn his career around and earn himself a multi-year contract next winter - from someone other than Seattle most likely.
Jeremy Reed is simply better than he showed last year. This is a kid with the talent to hit .300/.370/.440 in the bigs and work ethic and baseball intelligence are two of his strengths.
The official ITP player projections are a few months away, but my early line on Reed is reflective of his advanced plate skills:
.275/.345/.425, 14-18 SB, 30-35 2B, 60-65 BB.
Which looks a little bit like his performance last April and May combined, the only two months last season in which Reed was even near 100% healthy.