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Originally published November 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 5, 2008 at 10:24 AM

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Larry Stone

2009 Mariners: Players of interest

Ten baseball names the new M's general manager, Jack Zduriencik, might want to keep in mind for immediate help.

Seattle Times baseball reporter

DANA POINT, Calif. — Jack Zduriencik was making small talk with some Seattle reporters Monday, and he earnestly promised, "I'll never tell you how to do your job."

Unfortunately, much as I appreciated the sentiment, I couldn't reciprocate. The fledgling Mariners' general manager will have to learn firsthand what I'm sure he knows intuitively from a quarter-century in the industry: Telling GMs how to do their job is the lifeblood of sportswriting.

So, in the name of gentle initiation of the new guy, I will now provide completely unsolicited free advice — and worth every penny.

As the general managers meetings — the ceremonial first pitch of the Hot Stove League — reach the halfway point, here are 10 players that could prove of interest to the Mariners as they retool a 101-loss team.

Don't read these, necessarily, as endorsements. Just doing my civic duty by pointing them out.

You're welcome, Jack.

1. Ken Griffey Jr., OF (free agent)

In talking to baseball executives here, just about everyone in the industry expects Griffey to end up in Seattle. And for good reason — it would provide satisfying closure to a brilliant career. At least in theory.

If Griffey agrees to a reasonable contract (something like $5 million plus incentives), it just might work, so long as fans aren't expecting anything close to vintage Junior. And there's no reason they should, except for the power of nostalgia.

Griffey's recent left knee surgery should allow him to drive off his back leg again, increasing his waning power. The hope would be he can play 125 to 140 games at designated hitter, first base and right field (Ichiro, I suspect, would gladly move back to center as needed for one of his idols) and hit 25 to 30 homers.

Team president Chuck Armstrong loves Griffey, and vice versa (Junior asked Armstrong to introduce him at an awards banquet a few years ago when his father couldn't make it).

This situation could be a good test to see how collaborative the decision-making is under Zduriencik, who has no emotional ties to Griffey and might not see the wisdom in signing a 39-year-old player in a rebuilding operation.


2. Billy Butler, Royals, 1B/DH (trade)

The Royals just traded for Mike Jacobs, who figures to take the bulk of the time at first base. They also have plenty of other DH/first base types, so the word in Kansas City is that Butler is expendable.

This guy is a defensive liability at first (but not as bad as reputed, according to one Royals insider); and don't even think about the outfield. But Butler has tremendous upside as a hitter, and could be worth taking a flier on, primarily as a DH.

Two winters ago, according to The Kansas City Star, the Royals offered Butler to Seattle for Yuniesky Betancourt, and Bill Bavasi said no. Considering Betancourt's decline, and KC's ongoing need for a shortstop, that could be the starting point for another round of talks.

3. Jason Donald, Phillies, SS/2B (trade)

So if Betancourt is dealt, the Mariners would need a shortstop. Voila. Donald, 24, was a standout on the Olympic team, has excelled in the minors, and is said by scouts to be ready for a big-league job.

But as a middle infielder in the Phillies' organization, he's buried behind Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Donald is playing some third base in the Arizona Fall League (where he's tearing up the league at .459 in 18 games), but probably doesn't have the power to play the position in the majors.

The Mariners should give new Phillies GM Ruben Amaro a call and see what it will take to pry him loose. Donald even has a local connection — his great uncle is famed Seattle mountain climber Jim Wickwire, the first American to reach the top of K2.

4. Joe Crede, 3B (free agent)

The Mariners are almost certain to explore the trade market for Adrian Beltre, who is entering his final contract year.

If they deal Beltre, they'll need a replacement at third. Jose Lopez is one possibility. But how about Crede, who was an All-Star caliber performer for the White Sox before back problems limited him to 144 games the past two seasons.

His agent, Scott Boras (uh oh) said Tuesday that Crede had what he termed "minor" back surgery last month to relieve pressure on a nerve. He said Crede would be at full speed by January.

There's a chance that health concerns will keep Crede's price and contract length down. If so, he's an intriguing backup plan in the case of a Beltre trade.

5. Brad Nelson, Brewers, 1B/OF (trade)

He's another first-base option for the Mariners, one with whom Zduriencik is well-acquainted. A fourth-round pick in 2001, Nelson was once one of the top prospects in Milwaukee's organization (Baseball America ranked him No. 1 in 2003), but fell out of favor.

Nelson was even removed from their 40-man roster for a time, but after a comeback season last year — .263, 23 doubles, 20 home runs and 65 runs batted in for Class AAA Nashville — he's someone to take a chance on. Nelson, a lefty swinger, can play first base, the outfield and even some third base. Stuck behind Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, Nelson is likely to be available.

6. Josh Willingham, Marlins, OF (trade)

He's one of many arbitration-eligible players the Marlins are looking to dump. The Mariners could do worse in trying to plug their outfield holes. Red flag: A back injury limited him to 102 games last year.

7. Jeremy Affeldt, LHP (free agent)

He's a workhorse (74 games last year) who would solidify the bullpen (80 strikeouts in 78-1/3 innings) and provide a closing option if J.J. Putz is dealt. And he's from Medical Lake, Wash.

8. Jason Giambi, 1B/DH (free agent)

There are some definite signs that Giambi is headed back to Oakland. But the free-swinging Mariners could use a guy with a lifetime .408 on-base percentage (.373 last year).

Giambi's reputed steroids past might scare off the Mariners, but he would fill a need.

9. Lyle Overbay, 1B (trade)

He's yet another 1B option (and another state product, from Centralia). Word out of Toronto is that the Jays want to trade Overbay to Seattle and are willing to pick up some of his salary. According to one source, Overbay was part of the package (along with reliever Jason Frasor) for Raul Ibanez that was nixed by the Mariners at the trade deadline.

Downside: Overbay has been in steady decline since going .312-22-92 in 2006.

10. Garret Anderson, OF (free agent)

He's always been a Mariner killer, so why not put him on your side? Anderson isn't what he used to be, but his lefty bat might well thrive at Safeco.

That's enough for one day, but don't worry. There's more where that came from.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or

2008 stats for player the Mariners should go after:
Player Team G AB R H HR RBI AVG
Ken Griffey Jr. Reds-White Sox 143 490 67 122 18 71 .249
Jason Giambi Yankees 145 458 88 113 32 96 .247
Lyle Overbay Blue Jays 158 544 74 147 15 69 .270
Josh Willingham Marlins 102 351 54 89 15 51 .254
Joe Crede White Sox 97 335 41 83 17 55 .248
Brad Nelson Brewers 9 7 0 2 0 0 .286
Billy Butler Royals 124 443 44 122 11 55 .275
Garret Anderson Angels 145 557 66 163 15 84 .293
Jason Donald Reading (AA, Phillies) 92 362 57 111 14 54 .307
Player Team G W-L ERA IP K
Jeremy Affeldt Reds 74 1-1 3.33 78.1 80

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.

UPDATE - 10:00 PM
Larry Stone: Young pitcher Michael Pineda offers glimpse of exciting future for Mariners