So much for Harden; M's sign Patterson

INDIANAPOLIS - The market for pitching became a little clearer at the winter meetings Wednesday, although the Seattle Mariners didn't acquire any.

Their lone move on the final full day of meetings was to sign outfielder Corey Patterson – a 30-year-old former Chicago Cubs phenom – to a Class AAA contract and invite him to spring training.

“No promises, just an opportunity,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.

With or without Patterson, the American League West got a bit more intriguing. Free agent right-hander Rich Harden signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract – but not with Seattle.

Instead, Harden went to the Texas Rangers hours after the Rangers had traded veteran starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to Baltimore.

Harden had issues, including a suspect right shoulder that was a concern to the Mariners, who had interest despite that. Just not enough interest to risk that contract.

“Signings take players off the market, narrow your focus,” Zduriencik said. “There are possibilities for us. If we wanted to do something, we could. We’re weighing some options.”

Everyone wants pitching, and that was as true this winter as any other, though John Lackey may be having his doubts.

The premier pitcher on the free-agent market, Lackey marched forth looking for a six-year, $100 million contract and hasn’t come close to getting it from anyone. Teams with that kind of cash – think Yankees, Red Sox and Angels – are more intrigued by Toronto ace Roy Halladay.

The Blue Jays said Wednesday they expect to leave these winter meetings without trading Halladay.

Teams without that kind of disposable cash – think everyone else – are looking at far cheaper options, both on the free-agent market and through trade. It’s why the Mariners have had teams approach them for Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, Shawn Kelley and others.

“When you have young, inexpensive talent, a lot of teams are looking for that,” Zduriencik said.

The market for pitching likely has been set by the signing of Harden and Milwaukee’s three-year, $29.75 million deal with left-hander Randy Wolf, which won’t be finalized until he takes and passes a physical next week.

Free agent Ben Sheets, who didn’t pitch at all last season after elbow surgery, is said to be asking for the same $12 million-a-year deal he had before surgery. That seems highly optimistic.

Some teams here are in full-on salary-dumping mode. The Atlanta Braves owe former Mariner Derek Lowe $45 million over the next three years, and for the first time Wednesday lowered what they want in trade – and admitted they’d be willing to eat some of that salary.

Against that backdrop, teams were dangling pitchers in trade, including Gil Meche (Royals), Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Zach Duke (Pirates) and Brandon McCarthy (Rangers) – this after the Tigers moved Edwin Jackson in a three-team deal with Arizona and New York.

The World Series champion Yankees re-signed left-hander Andy Pettitte for one year at $11.75 million.

The Baltimore Orioles acquired the veteran Millwood from Texas for 27-year-old pitcher Chris Ray.

That agreement was made but on hold until the Orioles could look over the medical records on Millwood, an innings eater who’s about to turn 35 and will be paid $12 million. The Rangers will pay $3 million of that salary.

How tough is it to find and keep quality pitching – or just pitching? The Dodgers may be Exhibit A: They’re talking about re-signing former Mariner right-hander Jeff Weaver.

Which makes this move all the stranger: San Diego has reportedly told starter Kevin Correia, who won 12 games last year and made $750,000, that if he’s not traded in the next few days he will be non-tendered.

Yes, the Mariners are watching.

Gold-plated Beltre

Teams were running from meeting to meeting talking about third basemen Wednesday, and Adrian Beltre may have priced himself out of the market for most of them.

Scott Boras held court and insisted five or six teams were after the 30-year-old, though no one but Boras may have totally believed that. More teams seemed interested in lower-priced candidates – especially after reports that Beltre was seeking a five-year, $65 million contract.

Boston acknowledges it has “serious” interest in Beltre but would have to trade Mark Lowell before making a deal. By late in the afternoon, the Sox were in serious talks with Texas that could make Lowell a Ranger.

Three teams – Minnesota, Houston and Baltimore – have begun talking about getting help at third base. Unfortunately for Beltre, those teams seem more inclined to pursue free agent Pedro Feliz.

Other teams, including the Cardinals, Giants and Braves, prefer veteran Mark DeRosa. And Miguel Tejada has made it known he’s willing to move from shortstop to third base.

San Francisco’s interest in Beltre was so limited that late Wednesday they offered two players – outfielder Fred Lewis and infielder Kevin Frandsen – to San Diego for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Given all that, it’s hard to see where Beltre would have five or six suitors. Boras, however, said he did and added that Beltre’s batting average and production over the last three years on the road – away from Safeco Field – was better than Jason Bay’s.

The Boston Herald reported Beltre’s asking price was $13 million a year for five years. That would narrow the field.

And eliminate the Mariners.

Add Patterson

A left-handed hitter drafted in 1999, Patterson’s career has been one of potential not realized. With enough power to have hit 24 home runs in 157 games for the Cubs in 2004, he also struck out 168 times that season.

With a career on-base percentage of .290 over 10 seasons, Patterson played 16 games in the majors last year, five with Washington (batting .133), 11 with Milwaukee (.071).

Around the meetings

A day after Ivan Rodriguez signed a two-year, $6 million deal with Washington, Kansas City made a two-year to veteran catcher Jason Kendall. Colorado, meanwhile, offered former Mariners catcher Yorvit Torrealba a two-year, $5.5 million contract. ...

Aging, limping Vladimir Guerrero knows he’s nearing the end of his career, but he wants a two-year contract this winter and almost certainly would have to stay in the American League as a DH to get it. So far, no one has offered more than one year. ...

White Sox GM Ken Williams has often used his players to help recruit others, and he’s at it again – with ex-Mariners. Reliever Matt Thornton says he has been talking to free agent J.J. Putz about joining the Chicago bullpen. What might sell that is the Sox trading closer Bobby Jenks, who apparently is being shopped. ...

Pittsburgh wanted a shortstop to push incumbent Ronny Cedeño, and they landed one in Bobby Crosby, who signed for one year and $1.5 million. A year ago, the Mariners traded for Cedeño to push Yuniesky Betancourt.