By LARRY LaRUE
The News Tribune
The News Tribune
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – The surf crashes on a beach not 100 yards from the hotel, but Pat Gillick will never set foot on the sand. Nor will most of the other executives here for the annual general managers meetings.
The name fits. What the GMs do here is meet over a week where the itinerary remains the same – formal meetings each day until after 1 p.m., then lunch.
“After those meetings, you try to sit down with a few teams and discuss possible deals,” Gillick said. “Something might come out of all this, I don’t know.”
For the Seattle Mariners’ GM and most everyone else here, the business of baseball can be mundane, tedious. On Sunday the Mariners did little more than produce a list of about six teams they think they match up with in trade talks, and come up with a list of free agents in whom they have interest.
“We’ll meet with a few teams (today) and some more on Tuesday and see where we are,” Gillick said.
“You come to a beautiful place, you go into meeting rooms and you rarely come out,” a Red Sox executive said. “In a month, at the winter meetings in Dallas, you’ll probably see a lot of action – free agents, trades, the works. Here? Here we talk the business of baseball more than anything else.”
A year ago, when Gillick and the Mariners signed a half dozen free agents, none of them were signed at the GM meetings. The big question at those meetings was who would be the next pitching coach, and when one of the Mariners’ two candidates – Dick Pole – jumped to Cleveland, Seattle signed Bryan Price.
As headline news go, a rather quiet session.
The Mariners tried to tie up as many loose ends as possible before flying here, re-signing manager Lou Piniella, picking up the options on Edgar Martinez, Stan Javier and Mark McLemore, letting Jose Mesa and Rickey Henderson go.
There next major order of business is free agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez – and the Mariners don’t even expect to talk to him while they’re here.
“We haven’t had any formal negotiations with Alex yet and I don’t think we will in Florida,” Gillick said. “A lot about when we sit down and talk will be determined by Alex and Scott (Boras) and their schedule.
“We’re trying to improve the team, no matter what happens with Alex.”
Where does Seattle’s interest lie? They’ll talk to Kansas City about outfielder Johnny Damon, and Boston has asked for a meeting – apparently to offer outfielder Carl Everett.
“A switch-hitter with power? You’d have to think about it,” Gillick said of Everett.
Last offseason, the Mariners improved through free agency, making only one trade – though that one sent Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko and two minor leaguers.
It has not been lost upon other GMs that Gillick essentially went six-for-six last year in his free-agent pickups. The Mariners signed Kazuhiro Sasaki, Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Sele, Stan Javier, Mark McLemore and John Olerud.
Each helped the club, which went from 79 wins in 1999 to 91 wins last season.
Now, Gillick is looking first for offense, knowing that the team needs more hitting even if it’s able to re-sign A-Rod. Will this winter mirror what happened a year ago?
“I don’t think we’ll be quite as active, but what we do will have to be a combination of trades and using free agency,” Gillick said. “There’s not as much of what we need on the market this year as there was last.”
Last year, Gillick went after pieces and filled quite a few.
He wanted to upgrade at closer, and did.
He wanted to upgrade the rotation, and did.
He wanted a left-handed short reliever, and got one.
He wanted depth – and experience – and picked it up.
This time around, Gillick is going after hitting – left-handed hitting – and will try to upgrade the Mariners’ offense in the outfield, at third base and perhaps at catcher and second base.
“It’s a matter of trying to fill the right holes,” Gillick said.
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