It's a move destined to be debated by fans, given Rafael Soriano's stature in Seattle's bullpen and coming as it did the same day the Mariners lost out in bidding on free agent Jason Schmidt.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It won’t be the easiest sell to fans as a consolation prize. But the Mariners finally broke the ice Wednesday in their pursuit of a starting pitcher by trading for Atlanta Braves left-hander Horacio Ramirez.
The price for the 27-year-old, oft-injured hurler was steep, with the Mariners sending hard-throwing, 26-year-old setup man Rafael Soriano the other way. It’s a move destined to be debated by fans, given Soriano’s stature in Seattle’s bullpen and coming as it did the same day the Mariners lost out in bidding on free agent Jason Schmidt.
Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi made it official this morning, announcing the deal at baseball’s winter meetings.
“Our goal coming to the winter meetings was to get help in our starting rotation and that’s what we did today,” Bavasi said. “Horacio is a young left-handed starter who makes us better immediately.”
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The Mariners also announced today, the last day of the meetings, they had acquired right-hander Sean White from the Pittsburgh Pirates, for cash considerations. Earlier today, White had been drafted by the Pirates from the Atlanta Braves in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft. White pitched at Mercer Island High School and the University of Washington. He pitched for the Braves’ Class AA team last season.
Meantime, former Mariners pitcher Gil Meche agreed to a five-year deal today with the Kansas City Royals.
Position: Starting pitcher. Ht: 6 feet 1. Wt: 170 pounds.
Bats: Left. Throws: Left. Age: 27.
Drafted: By Atlanta Braves, fifth round, 1997.
Word of the Soriano for Ramirez trade spread quickly Wednesday night through the hallways of Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort, where the meetings were into their third day. The Mariners scrambled to recover after Kelso native Schmidt agreed to $47 million contract over three years with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bavasi suggested to reporters Wednesday night that he had made a competitive offer very much in the same range.
“Where I come from, yeah,” he said. “It was a boatload of money.”
Bavasi added that the prospect of Schmidt playing in his home state may not have been enough of a lure.
Another free agent targeted by Seattle, left-hander Ted Lilly, later signed a four-year, $40 million pact with the Chicago Cubs.
Yet another pitcher linked to Seattle this offseason, former Mariners starter Freddy Garcia, was snatched up by the Philadelphia Phillies in a trade for 23-year-old pitcher Gavin Floyd and minor-league pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The Phillies also beat the Mariners out in bidding for free-agent pitcher Adam Eaton last month.
Bavasi said the loss of Schmidt was not a crushing blow to his offseason plans.
“There are guys still on the board,” he said. “I’ve told you every day we’ve been here, we’ve got lines on all of them. This is one guy on the board at a hefty price tag.”
Seattle has approached the agent for free-agent pitcher Miguel Batista, but has yet to make a formal offer. Batista is reported to have received a three-year, $24 million offer from the Kansas City Royals.
“There are a bunch of teams interested, and Seattle is one of them,” Batista’s agent, Martin Arburua, said Wednesday. “We’ll just have to wait and see how things play out over the next few days.”
Bavasi said it isn’t critical that his plans be completed by the time the winter meetings end today.
Ramirez is hardly a household name, though he did win 12 games as a rookie in 2003 and logged 202 innings in an 11-win campaign in 2005. But a slew of injuries and mishaps limited Ramirez to a 5-5 record and a 4.48 earned-run average in 14 starts last season.
The Mariners likely see upside in a ground-ball specialist who, despite switching to the American League, could theoretically benefit from Seattle’s solid infield defense. He went 14-8 with a 3.58 ERA in the first 38 starts of his career before dropping off to 16-14 with a 4.60 ERA the next 46 starts once shoulder problems set in.
Ramirez missed nearly seven weeks with a hamstring problem this past year, then went 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA in his next four starts before being felled by a line drive off the bat of Houston Astros slugger Lance Berkman. He looked shaky from then on and his season ended in August with a partial tear of a finger tendon.
Soriano had his season end in August when he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero. But he is pitching in the Dominican Winter League and had attracted interest from a long line of teams.
Ramirez earned $2.2 million last year and gives the Mariners a cheaper alternative for their rotation than the free-agent possibilities they’ve explored. That enables them to stockpile money for a bigger-name free agent, like Barry Zito.
But the Texas Rangers seem prepared to go six years and more than $90 million on Zito, while the big-spending New York Mets have also indicated interest. Bavasi said that the longer the Zito bidding drags on, the less inclined Seattle will be to take a run at him.
“I don’t know that we want to put all our eggs into that one basket and miss,” he said.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Comparing the deal|
|Pitchers Horacio Ramirez and Rafael Soriano were both born in 1979, but Ramirez has been a starter in his major-league career and Soriano has primarily been a reliever. A look at their stats:|
|LHP Horacio Ramirez|
|2006 salary: $2.2 million|
|RHP Rafael Soriano|
|2006 salary: $450,000|
|Major-league statistics: Horatio Ramirez|