M's payroll won't go down - or up

While the Washington Nationals seem to be on an epic spending spree, and the New York Yankees never stop spending, the Seattle Mariners are taking a frugal approach this offseason.

Gone are the days of opening the checkbook and signing the likes of Richie Sexson to long-term deals.

The Mariners promised to show financial restraint as baseball’s winter meetings opened in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

So as the Nationals finalized the workings of a 7-year, $ 126 million contract for free agent outfielder Jayson Werth, and other teams bid on the likes of Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, the Mariners will be shopping in the bargain bin of free agents.

If it sounds depressing, it could be worse. The Mariners could trim payroll.

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong confirmed that the team will not reduce player payroll for the 2011 season. A year ago, Seattle trimmed more than $8 million off the payroll.

“As some of you noted, our player payroll will not be going down from last year,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we are going to spend it all. Most of you have been pretty accurate with what you’ve estimated our cost to be. Last year, our player payroll budget was $94 million, and it won’t be going down from that.”

A payroll budget of $94 million hardly makes the Mariners paupers. It would still place Seattle in the top 15 teams in baseball.

But with attendance down last season and the effects of having two of three seasons with more than 100 losses, Armstrong admitted the Mariners are projecting losses for the 2011 season.


The Mariners did make one acquisition on Monday, signing 17-year-old shortstop Esteilon Peguero out of the Dominican Republic to a $2.9 million signing bonus.

The bonus is the highest given to an international amateur this year.

“We are happy to add a multi-tools player at a premium position to our organization,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.

Peguero stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds. He is considered a good hitting prospect and smooth fielder.

In July, the Mariners signed six international players, including hard-hitting outfielder Phillips Castillo, who received a $2.2 million bonus.


Former Mariners closer J.J. Putz signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The deal likely will be finalized today.

Putz had 91 saves for Seattle in 2006-08, making the AL All-Star team en route to a 40-save season in 2007, but he has been used as setup man for the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox the last two seasons.


Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Reynolds and Shaun Marcum switched leagues Monday as teams started trading at the winter meetings. Lee’s agent showed up, too, but said there’s no telling when his prize pitcher might sign.

Often, it takes a few days at this annual gathering for any real action. This time, it was brisk from the get-go.

“Now that everybody is here in the same facility, the atmosphere is ripe to push through some things,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

The Boston Red Sox completed their trade for Gonzalez, getting the first baseman from San Diego for minor league pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named.

Baltimore added a big bat – and a bunch of strikeouts – by acquiring Reynolds from Arizona for right-handed relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.

The Milwaukee Brewers bolstered their rotation, getting right-hander Marcum from the Toronto Blue Jays for Canadian infield prospect Brett Lawrie.

“A lot of agents are claiming that their players are going to sign this week. Some will and some won’t,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. “There could be a run on starting pitching this week.”

Whether Lee is among those pitchers is unclear. Agent Darek Braunecker met with Cashman. The Yankees hope to lure the lefty, while Texas is trying to re-sign him. The Associated Press contributed to this report.