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Saturday, November 27, 2004 - Page updated at 12:13 A.M.
By Bob Finnigan
When Mariners officials say they are out to upgrade the club's run production, they apparently are not kidding.
Seattle, one of the big leagues' lowliest clubs last year in home runs and runs batted in, has apparently made multiyear contract offers to both Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson, two of the most powerful bats to come on the free-agent market in years.
Confirming that yesterday, an independent source said the club would fit the sluggers into the defense by asking Sexson to play left field much of the time.
"What they are hoping is to have a rotation of Delgado, Sexson and (Raul) Ibanez for first base, left and DH," the source said.
General manager Bill Bavasi acknowledged that the Mariners want to add power and that the corner positions are the most likely sources, but he declined to be specific.
Seattle is also looking to sign Corey Koskie for third base, add one or two starting pitchers and bring back catcher Dan Wilson and left-handed pitcher Ron Villone. But hitting the daily double on Delgado and Sexson would likely tap out the Mariners' $16 million available for free agents and cause them to stop shopping, with the exception of bringing back Wilson as a backup catcher.
One rationale is the splash factor.
In discussions with the Mariners, who have made an offer of three or four years to him, Delgado is believed to have made clear his expectation of playing the majority of games at first, a stance he maintained for his nine years as Toronto's everyday starter at that position.
With Northwest native Sexson thought to have made it clear that he very much wants to play in Seattle, the idea of working both into a lineup may have come from new Seattle manager Mike Hargrove.
Sexson, one of the better first basemen in the majors, played left field for Hargrove with Cleveland in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, he played more left than first for Cleveland before the midseason swap that sent him to Milwaukee, where he became a full-time first baseman.
In all, Sexson has 112 games in the outfield, 109 in left and three in right, and handled 155 chances without an error, including six assists.
It is uncertain how this arrangement would affect Seattle's overall defense, but an offense built around Delgado, Sexson, Ibanez and Bret Boone, with Ichiro leading off, would provide pitchers a lot more leeway for error in the form of run production.
As in Delgado's case, Sexson's offensive potential overshadows his defense. In his six full years before his 2004 season in Arizona was gutted by two shoulder injuries, Sexson averaged .270 with 30 homers and 95 RBI.
In Delgado's nine full years, including 2004 when a ribcage injury limited him to 128 games, he hit about .290 with averages of 36 homers and 115 RBI.
The only way Seattle could avoid spending all its available $16 million for free agents on Delgado and Sexson, would be the unlikely step of back-loading the contract offers.
Seattle has about $55 million already accounted for in existing multiyear contracts, but that falls to $42 million in 2006, with more than $11 million in option deals with closer Eddie Guardado and outfielder Randy Winn. Only $12.5 million is guaranteed in 2007, all of it to Ichiro.
The Mariners could make more room in 2005 if they traded a player under contract. They are thought to have an offer for Boone. But it is more likely they would trade Winn if they get Sexson for left and keep rookie Jeremy Reed in center for his defense.
Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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