If Seattle can follow Sexson with Beltre, they could make the long-sought splash that will convince disenchanted fans they mean to rise from the ashes of last year's 99-loss disaster.

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With the Mariners having spent $50 million to make first baseman Richie Sexson the biggest addition ever made to their lineup, they are thought to be close — or possibly already have reached agreement — on a deal worth $60 million or more to third baseman Adrian Beltre.


If Seattle can follow Sexson with Beltre, they could make the long-sought splash that will convince disenchanted fans they mean to rise from the ashes of last year’s 99-loss disaster.


As hinted by more than one source, with the 6-foot-8, 237-pound Sexson aboard for superb defense in the right corner of the infield, the Mariners seem to be on the verge of shoring up the left corner of their infield in similar fashion.


Carlos Delgado, who was the Mariners’ top target when the free-agent market opened last month, apparently has fallen behind Beltre as a target for much the same reason he fell behind Sexson — talks have been more productive.


The financial fit will turn on Sexson’s slightly backloaded contract, which pays him $4.5 million in 2005, with a $6 million signing bonus, $11.5 million in 2006 and $14 million apiece in 2007 and 2008.














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Despite an ESPN report that the Beltre signing was a done deal, Mariners sources said early this afternoon that it was not. An official announcement would not be made until Beltre has passed a physical.
That will leave sufficient room for Seattle to add another whopper salary soon and stay within the player payroll budget, which is now thought to provide between $16 million and $18 million for free-agent signings.


So great has Seattle’s lean toward Beltre become, there is suspicion the club might consider withdrawing its offer to Delgado, unless he suddenly agrees to an offer thought to be about $60 million and crimp what could be a likely signing of Beltre.


“There is interest,” confirmed a source familiar with Beltre’s side of the negotiations, which currently seeks about $12 million a year for five or six years.


While Scott Boras, Beltre’s agent, would not discuss negotiations, he was fulsome in talking about the potential for an agreement.


“While every West Coast team except Oakland is on our list, Seattle is definitely on it, because there is a fit for both sides up there,” Boras said. “I will tell you right now that Adrian Beltre has a personality just like Edgar Martinez. … that good. He is a tremendous kid, and a leader. He was a leader on the Dodgers and would be a leader on the Mariners, and we know they are seeking leaders on their club.”

Ironically, Boras’ discussions with other clubs about outfielder Carlos Beltran could bear an impact on whether Seattle winds up filling what GM Bill Bavasi described yesterday as, “a need for one more offensive weapon.”


David Sloane, who represents Delgado, began discussions last week with the Yankees about the former Toronto slugger. But the New York club is thought to be focused on trying to sign Beltran before turning another direction, such as first base.


Speculation has Boras playing a patient game with Beltran, with Houston and possibly the Chicago Cubs involved as well as the Yankees. No signing is expected until next month.


“We have never had a timetable,” Sloane said. “We have to let this thing play out, what else is there to do? The market is rising to us. Meanwhile, we assumed from the beginning the Mariners were talking to other players.”


Asked when there might be a decision on Delgado’s future, the agent said, “I really don’t know when. It could be by lunch tomorrow or it might go into January. There are a lot of moving parts that we have to let play out.”


This is not Seattle’s timetable. As one executive put it yesterday, “we’ve got to get going on this. We’ll sign whichever one takes our offer first.”


It is believed there has been considerable debate internally in the Seattle front office: Delgado vs. Beltre.


On one hand, Delgado, 32, is a proven run producer, averaging 36 homers and 114 runs batted over his nine-year career. Furthermore, he is a left-handed power bat who would be in lefty-friendly Safeco Field.


In addition to the baseball aspect, he is regarded a team leader with a strong, upbeat personality.

On Beltre’s side of the ledger, there is his age, at 25, which makes Seattle willing to give a five-year deal — or possibly six — for the first time.


He is a solid defender, a .978 fielding mark topped the National League last season, which would link with Sexson at first and Gold Glover Bret Boone at second to give Mariners pitchers the benefit of one of the best defensive infields in the major leagues.


While Delgado has a stated preference for first that would force Sexson, who went to Prairie High in Brush Prairie near Vancouver, Wash., to play left field and bump Raul Ibanez to DH — reluctantly — the positions line up stronger with Beltre at third, where Seattle has long sought an everyday standout.


Beltre’s right-handed bat is less desirable than left-handed hitter Delgado, but Beltre came alive last year to produce an NL-leading 48 homers and 121 RBI, fourth in the league, with a .334 average.


“He is clearly the best third baseman in baseball,” said Boras, clearly pumping up his client. “I can say that since A-Rod has just moved to third (last season). Beltre is a remarkable player.”


And to Seattle’s benefit, Beltre regards himself a West Coast player, especially since he married into a Los Angeles family.


In that, he resembles Sexson, who acknowledged yesterday that, “I wanted to play in Seattle all along.”


Before finalizing the deal, Sexson endured two sessions of medical examinations.


The main examination was an MRI/arthrogram yesterday that proved that Sexson’s left shoulder, in which he suffered two injuries to ruin his 2004 season, is completely healed.

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“They shot dye in there and if the labrum had not healed, it would have leaked … and there was no leak,” he said. “It made me feel better to have as thorough an exam (as I did).”


It makes the Mariners feel better to have Sexson, with 45 homers in two of three seasons before he was hurt last year, to begin the badly-needed rebuild.


Bob Finnigan: 206-464-8276 or bfinnigan@seattletimes.com