The Seattle Mariners continued efforts to plug their most glaring weaknesses Tuesday amid indications that details were being worked out on a contract with controversial switch hitter Carl Everett.
Everett – who has had confrontations with former teammates, managers and opponents (including the Mariners’ Jamie Moyer), and said last summer that he doesn’t believe dinosaurs ever existed – is close to bringing the left-handed power the Mariners are seeking.
How close remains uncertain.
“Nothing yet, but don’t go too far from your phone,” manager Mike Hargrove said Tuesday.
One report said Everett and the Mariners could be close to a one-year contract, with a possible option year, for between $3 million and $3.5 million. Everett would spend most of his time as the designated hitter.
Despite being a switch hitter, most of Everett’s power last season with the White Sox came from the left side. He hit 18 of his 23 home runs and drove 59 of his 87 runs while batting left-handed.
The Mariners’ lineup is littered with left-handed hitting – right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, left fielder Raul Ibanez and center fielder Jeremy Reed. Ibanez was the only reasonable power producer with 20 home runs and 89 RBI, and general manager Bill Bavasi would prefer one more hitter capable of reaching the right-field seats at Safeco Field.
Everett’s past is checkered with conflict, including an incident in Boston a few years ago when he grabbed his crotch and spit in Moyer’s direction.
The Mariners, who have carefully considered good citizenship in their acquisitions in recent years, feel satisfied that Everett won’t cause problems.
The M’s are further from settling their need for a starting pitcher.
Kevin Millwood is considered the best available free-agent starter, but agent Scott Boras said he is seeking a five-year deal, something the Mariners say they won’t do.
As one team official said, the price has gone up on pitching this offseason and, in a thin market, most deals will be big deals.
The M’s made an offer to Matt Morris, but he signed over the weekend with the San Francisco Giants.
Among those remaining available are Jeff Weaver, Jarrod Washburn, Scott Elarton and Kenny Rogers.
World impact: Felix Hernandez isn’t the only player who could have an impact on the Mariners if he plays in the World Baseball Classic in March.
Three other Mariners – outfielder Ichiro Suzuki for Japan, third baseman Adrian Beltre for the Dominican Republic and pitcher Joel Pineiro for Puerto Rico – are likely to play for their countries. If their teams make it to the championship game, they probably won’t report to the Mariners until late in spring training.
The Mariners will begin spring training in mid-February – official reporting dates haven’t been announced – and play their final exhibition game April 1. The World Baseball Classic runs March 3-20, with those teams’ camps also beginning in mid-February.
Suzuki, for example, would remain in Japan to train with his team and wouldn’t join the Mariners until the Japanese team is finished in the tournament.
The greatest concern is with the pitchers, who are treated with utmost care in spring training as they build arm strength for the season opener.
The Mariners are still waiting word on their objection to Hernandez’s participation on the Venezuelan team because, at 19, he’s at a tender age in his development. Pineiro, while a veteran, still presents an uneasiness because he would be training outside direct supervision of the Mariners.
“Hopefully, there’s some way we can monitor how they’re doing,” Hargrove said. “The best thing would be to limit pitches or innings pitched. I haven’t heard any guidelines, and at the winter meetings (last week) we were still waiting on things like that. This is a new deal for everybody.”
Heid injured: Trevor Heid, who played the past two seasons for the Everett AquaSox, is expected to have knee surgery soon. Heid was injured while playing football over the Thanksgiving holiday near his home in Glendale, Ariz.
“I don’t know much about it, but he could be out a while,” said Greg Hunter, the Mariners’ director of minor league operations. “He’d had a good year in Everett and he ended up going to San Bernardino for a little bit. He’s a good kid.”
Heid, an outfielder, batted .299 with four home runs, 14 RBI, 10 steals and a .577 slugging percentage in 32 games with the short-season Class A AquaSox this year. He batted .206 with one home run and one RBI in 12 games after being promoted to the high-Class A Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino, Calif.
AquaSox staff update: Hunter said the organization is close to hiring a pitching coach for the AquaSox. Early this month, the Mariners named Jim Horner as the AquaSox manager for 2006 but hadn’t decided on a pitching coach.