By Kirby Arnold
SEATTLE – The Seattle Mariners answered one question concerning Brett Tomko on Wednesday by signing the pitcher to a contract for the 2002 season that avoided arbitration.
Still to be determined is whether the deal is a prelude to a trade of the right-hander, who was unhappy after spending much of the season in the minor leagues.
“No,” Mariners assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas said. “It’s just one of our possible arbitration cases. Both sides realized the guy spent most of the time in the minor leagues last year and there wasn’t much to discuss as far as an arbitration case. We were willing to pay him what he made last year off the 2000 season. There’s nothing to read into it.”
Tomko agreed to a one-year deal believed to be worth $1.1 million.
The 28-year-old Tomko, acquired from Cincinnati two years ago in the Ken Griffey Jr. trade, fell victim to a numbers game on the Mariners’ pitching staff. Unable to crack the starting rotation beyond three spot starts, he spent much of his time in the bullpen before being optioned May 20 to Class AAA Tacoma, where he remained until the major league rosters expanded in September.
As he did a year earlier when demoted to the minors, Tomko said that he and the Mariners might be better served if they traded him. He pitched impressively at Tacoma, going 10-6 with a no-hitter that again placed him at the front of trade speculation, especially after M’s general manager Pat Gillick said the team will be active in the trade market this offseason.
The Mariners have six other players eligible for arbitration – pitchers Freddy Garcia, Paul Abbott, John Halama and Jose Paniagua, shortstop Carlos Guillen and utility player Charles Gipson.
Gipson is the only one that is expected to get a contract offer from the team. The others are expected to file for arbitration in January, a process in which the team and player will each file a salary figure and, if neither side can reach an agreement, an arbitrator will conduct a hearing and choose one of the two figures.