By KIRBY ARNOLD
Lou Piniella feels a strong commitment to Seattle and its baseball fans, and he’s flattered by the Seattle Mariners’ contract offer.
So what’s keeping Piniella from saying yes and continuing as the team’s manager?
“The Mariners made a very good offer. They were very gracious and generous and we’re considering that offer,” said Alan Nero, the Chicago-based agent for Piniella. “But we would like to at least be able to consider some of the potential openings that are available.”
Piniella, whose contract with the Mariners expired after the 2000 season, has managed the team since 1993 and taken the M’s to the postseason three of the last five seasons.
Mariners executives met with Piniella on Thursday near his home in Tampa and offered a package believed to be worth about $7 million over three years.
Piniella couldn’t be reached on Friday.
“Lou has a very strong commitment to Seattle,” Nero said. “The town has been very good to him, and the fans have been good to him. His heart is serious about considering staying, but he’d like to know if anybody else is interested.
Five other managerial jobs are open – Toronto, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers – and Bobby Valentine’s contract is up with the New York Mets.
Nero said he and Piniella have no interviews scheduled but they’re hoping to talk with other clubs and make a decision next week.
“We’re hoping by the middle of next week we can make a decision, but it’s up in the air at the moment,” Nero said.
Piniella is known to favor only the Mariners among the teams with vacancies on the West Coast.
Geographic location, as it relates to Piniella’s home on the East Coast, could be a factor in his decision, Nero said.
“It’s important, in regard to the fact that you have family and you’d like to be close to the family,” the agent said. “That really is one of the main issues.”
Money, however, might speak loudest.
At $2.3 million per year, Piniella would rank third among major league managers (behind the Yankees’ Joe Torre at $3 million and the Giants’ Dusty Baker at $2.65 million).
Piniella, who made $1.3 million per year in his last contract, also would like a deal long enough to allow him to win 1,500 games as a manager in his career. He’s currently at 1,110, and probably would need five years to hit 1,500.
Nero said Piniella felt no disrespect by the three-year deal offered by the Mariners. Instead, he was flattered.
“We’re not going to go ask them to bid against themselves,” Nero said. “It’s not the game we’re playing. They really made a full-court press and I think Lou was touched by the whole thing.”
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