11/05/09 1:12 PM EST
Seven Mariners among free-agent class
Branyan, Griffey appear most likely to return to Seattle
By Jim Street / MLB.com
They are the ones eligible for free agency and, beginning on Thursday, left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard, third baseman Adrian Beltre, first baseman Russell Branyan, left fielder Endy Chavez and designated hitters Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney had 15 days to file.
The Mariners have exclusive negotiating rights during the 15-day period, regardless when the player actually files through the Major League Players Association.
General manager Jack Zduriencik would not comment on whom he wants to bring back.
"There are always conversations going on, tons of conversations," he said. "We have ongoing talks with agents and the way things are, I would rather not get into specifics."
It would appear that among the Mariners' free agents, Branyan and Griffey are the most likely to return.
"I talked briefly with Jack at the end of the season, and he knows how passionate I am about going back to Seattle," Branyan said. "Now, it's a matter of getting on the phone and figuring out what we can do to get me back in a Seattle uniform."
Branyan was the first player Zduriencik signed after becoming the Seattle GM, offering the left-handed-hitting slugger $1.4 million and an opportunity to compete for an everyday job.
It turned out to be one of the best bargains of the season as Branyan led the team with 31 home runs and drove in a career-high 76 runs despite spending most of the second half of the season battling back problems diagnosed as a herniated disk.
"I've been feeling awesome," he said. "It's amazing how much better I feel since the end of the season."
He said he was not looking to "break the bank" following the best season of his career. "I just want to be treated fairly. I have never been in this position -- a free agent coming off a good season."
As of Thursday, there was nothing new on the Griffey front.
The odds seem to indicate that Junior would return for one more season. He recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to "clean out" his left knee. The organization was pleased with the impact Griffey had on the clubhouse last season and might be willing to present the future Hall of Famer a contract similar to this past season -- a $2 million base salary with incentives.
Griffey, who batted .214 with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs, ended up making $3.5 million. He also received $5 million from the Reds.
Sweeney is a tough call. He, too, was instrumental to the turnaround in team chemistry and contributed a .281 batting average, eight home runs and 34 RBIs.
It seems unlikely that both Sweeney and Griffey would return.
After having a career year the first time he became eligible for free agency -- .334 batting average, 48 home runs and 121 RBIs for the Dodgers in 2004 -- Beltre damaged his bargaining power the second time, batting .265 with eight home runs and 44 RBIs in the final year of his five-year, $64 million contract.
In a carbon copy of his first season with Seattle, Bedard had an injury-plagued 2009 season that ended with surgery in his left shoulder to repair the labrum. It seems unlikely that Seattle would attempt to re-sign him.
The same goes for Chavez, who suffered a season-ending -- if not career-ending -- knee injury on June 19 in a collision with shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt.
Though shortstop Jack Wilson is not eligible for free agency, the Mariners have the option of picking up the final year of his contract for $8.4 million, or choosing a $600,000 buyout.
"We made a trade for Jack Wilson because we think that Jack Wilson could be a part of what we're doing in the future," Zduriencik said. "Some pieces have to come together. Obviously, the contract is something we'll have to discuss with him and some other issues that we'll talk about as well."
After throwing his final pitch of the season, Batista said there was a "99.9 percent chance" that he would not be pitching for the Mariners in 2010.
He might have over-stated the chances just a little.
Because Beltre and Bedard are classified as Type B free agents, if they sign with another team before December 1, or decline a salary arbitration offer, the Mariners would receive a sandwich pick between the first two rounds of next June's First-Year Player Draft.
None of the other five Mariners eligible for free agency are Type A or Type B free agents, so Seattle would not received compensation if they sign elsewhere.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.