Bill Bavasi was reluctant to use the word "frantic" to describe the Mariners' anticipated pace at baseball's winter meetings, the annual industry supermarket that puts together...

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Bill Bavasi was reluctant to use the word “frantic” to describe the Mariners’ anticipated pace at baseball’s winter meetings, the annual industry supermarket that puts together general managers and agents under one roof.

But Seattle’s GM indicated that the term will be close to apt. Mariners officials were to begin arriving today in Anaheim, Calif., for the meetings, which they hope will be the impetus for revamping last year’s 99-loss disaster of a ballclub.

“We’ll be everywhere,” Bavasi said. “We’ll be very, very active as far as talking to clubs and free agents. There’s a lot of work to be done. We’ve made the right contacts, and things have gone well so far. We’re now in that mode where we’re going to hound people a little bit.”

Despite Seattle’s recent linkage with the king of this year’s free agents, outfielder Carlos Beltran, the Mariners’ top target still appears to be first baseman Carlos Delgado.

Beltran, in a interview last weekend, named the Mariners as one of eight teams to have made contact. But with Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, allegedly whispering about seeking a 10-year, $200 million contract, the Mariners would have to make a shocking shift in fiscal philosophy to have more than peripheral involvement.

First baseman Richie Sexson is a .271 career hitter.
For those who wonder about the possible public-relations fallout from Delgado’s anti-war stance, reflected in his decision last year to not stand for the playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch, his agent had conciliatory words this week. And contrary to some reports, Delgado always stood respectfully during the American national anthem last season.

“What Carlos said on the matter is that the (Toronto) Blue Jays did not have a policy regarding the issue of standing on the top step of the dugout,” said David Sloane, Delgado’s agent. “It did not matter to them whether he stood or not.

“If a team has a policy requiring players to be on the top step of the dugout, he’ll be there. Carlos said he will not do anything to put himself above any of his teammates.”

Of more concern to the Mariners might be the recent word from a source that Delgado has expressed a preference for remaining on the East Coast.

There was some suspicion this week that talks have resumed on a possible Mariners-Padres deal involving first baseman/outfielder Ryan Klesko and third baseman Sean Burroughs coming to Seattle, and outfielder Randy Winn and possibly infielder Scott Spiezio going to San Diego.

A source confirmed the concept was broached during the GM meetings, but said it was unlikely to reach fruition, largely because of Klesko’s blanket no-trade clause. Klesko, still owed $20.5 million over the next two years, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in November he would almost certainly exercise his no-trade option for any deal.

That said, Winn remains one of the most plausible trade chips for the Mariners, who have rookie Jeremy Reed in place as a possible successor in center field. Winn is slated to make $3.75 million next year, and the savings could be applied to free-agent signings.

Beyond Delgado, the names on the Mariners’ list include Richie Sexson, another first baseman who could conceivably play left field, with Raul Ibanez shifting to DH; and third basemen Corey Koskie and Adrian Beltre.

The Mariners have recently been linked to free-agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, who drove in 110 runs and hit 37 home runs last year for the Colorado Rockies and was impressive as a center-field replacement for injured Preston Wilson.

But Burnitz’s agent, Howard Simon, said that while the Mariners expressed interest in Burnitz early in the free-agent process, talks have not progressed.

Bavasi makes no secret of the fact that the Mariners’ priority is improving their offensive productivity, even if it comes at the expense of another need — adding starting pitching.

“I don’t know about (accomplishing) both,” he said. “I think we could, but if we can add top offensive punch, and if that eats up a lot (of their available resources), we’ll probably try to figure out the pitching later.”

He added, however, that “as players come off the board, if we have money, we’re not going to bypass tremendous pitching to take on mediocre offense.”

Carl Pavano, one of the top pitchers on the market, concluded his two-day Seattle visit yesterday with another full day of activities that included lunch with Bret Boone.

The Mariners insist their interest in Pavano is sincere, though most industry observers rate the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles as more likely to get into vigorous bidding for the 18-game winner, said to be seeking at least a four-year deal.

Other pitching targets of the Mariners have rapidly been dropping from the field with signing figures that are causing industry-wide alarm.

With the market seemingly set by Kris Benson’s three-year, $22 million contract with the Mets, the last two days have seen Jaret Wright sign with the Yankees and Jon Lieber with the Philadelphia Phillies, both for three years and $21 million. In addition, Woody Williams signed with the Padres, Al Leiter with the Florida Marlins and Brad Radke returned to the Minnesota Twins.

Pedro Martinez isn’t in the Mariners’ plans, but other free-agent starters still available include Russ Ortiz, Derek Lowe, Kevin Millwood, Eric Milton and Odalis Perez.

Bavasi believes the Mariners have “a real good shot” at achieving their goal of dramatically improving the offense, though not necessarily at the winter meetings.

“What we’re trying to do is get a little greedy and get more than one,” he said. “And is there a way, if we can get two, can we get three? We’re trying to spread as much strength as broadly across the club as we can.”

Bavasi wouldn’t quantify how many offers the Mariners have pending, but said, “We’re in very, very serious discussions about money and length with quite a few free agents.”

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or Staff reporter Bob Finnigan contributed to this report.