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Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - Page updated at 01:27 P.M.

Mariners' top target is likely Delgado

By Bob Finnigan
Seattle Times staff reporter

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With the free-agent shopping mart in its second week, the Mariners have focused on shaping proposals for first baseman Carlos Delgado, third baseman Corey Koskie and pitchers Jaret Wright, Jon Lieber, Ron Villone and Carl Pavano.

Sources say the Mariners followed up on their initial meeting with Delgado with a second meeting last week, which would seem to confirm his status as their top target.

While the Mariners are working to add what one club official referred to as "power and pitching," they could be in jeopardy of losing one of their few remaining longtime favorites.

Negotiations with Dan Wilson seem to be stuck.

The Mariners are thought to have offered a contract of one year, possibly with a club option for 2006, for the veteran catcher — the only man left from the breakthrough season of 1995 and one of few left from the record, 116-win club of 2001.

It is unknown if there has been any development since the Mariners' one-year offer.

The Mariners do not comment on negotiations. Wilson and his family are out of the country, and agent Ron Shapiro, who wrote a book about the power of nice in negotiations, has not returned calls.

This would seem to indicate that Seattle's offer has been unsatisfactory to Wilson and Shapiro.

Meantime, word is that the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have expressed interest in Wilson, with each club envisioning his role as Seattle does — as a backup catcher.
The Orioles have Javy Lopez, the Twins have young Joe Mauer coming off knee troubles and the White Sox project Ben Davis as their starter.

Wilson and Shapiro may be reasoning that Seattle could wind up needing him to play more, thus he should be paid more.

At issue could be how much Miguel Olivo will play.

Olivo, obtained from the White Sox for Freddy Garcia and Davis, is an important piece for Seattle. The Mariners found that he needed a lot of work to hone his considerable talents when Chicago let him go.

Olivo worked with coaches Orlando Gomez and Rene Lachemann almost daily in the second half of the season.

"He worked hard, he's a willing kid, a good kid," Lachemann said. "He's got the ability, but it doesn't show enough. He's raw, but he's willing to work on it."

After the season, the Mariners asked Olivo to go to Arizona for two weeks to work with Roger Hansen, the man who developed Jason Varitek in the winter before the 1997 season — when former general manager Woody Woodward shipped Varitek to Boston.

Of the Hansen/Olivo experience, word from the Mariners' training facility was the same: that Olivo worked hard and is improved but needs more work.

Meantime, Seattle does not have Pat Borders to fall back on anymore. The veteran signed with Milwaukee last week.

Right now, the backup catcher is Wiki Gonzalez, who is very similar to Olivo — tough and talented but in need of considerable work. Gonzalez was injured much of last season and even missed most of training camp, when he wound up in the doghouse of former manager Bob Melvin.

Some in the organization say Gonzalez, who came from San Diego in the Jeff Cirillo deal, could be a sleeper.

It is believed that Seattle officials are hoping they can still re-sign Wilson and have not yet gotten involved in discussions for a replacement — such as Mike Redmond of Florida, Gregg Zaun of Toronto or Sandy Alomar of the White Sox.

If needed, they could have manager Mike Hargrove call Alomar, who was his lead catcher for years in Cleveland.

As it is, Hargrove is thought to be a key part of Seattle's efforts to land Wright, a right-hander who was 15-8 with a 3.28 earned-run average for Atlanta last season. He came back from years of arm injuries that ruined his chances of becoming the Indians' ace.

Pavano is reportedly making his visit to Seattle next week, but after the right-hander rejected $7 million a year to stay with Florida, Seattle may be leaning more to Wright and Lieber.

Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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