Not even the New York Yankees' offer of reliever Mariano Rivera, rated one of the American League's top closers, could entice the Mariners to give up Randy Johnson.
Three clubs have made trade offers, and outside of the Rivera offer, the return for Johnson so far has been paltry. Asked about the Yankees' bid, Seattle General Manager Woody Woodward did not confirm it directly but said: "We need a starting pitcher back in any deal for Randy. If we don't get one, if we don't get what we are looking for, then we are fully prepared to go into the season with Randy on our team."
A Mariner official also said there are concerns about Rivera's arm. There were suspicions the 27-year-old right-hander had shoulder trouble late in the season. Rivera had 43 saves, appeared in 66 games and was 6-4 with a 1.88 earned-run average.
Seattle was looking for 1996 AL Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen from Toronto in a deal for Johnson. But the Blue Jays offered pitcher Juan Guzman and outfielder Shawn Green, a Toronto source said. The Mariners reportedly sought Jose Cruz Jr., the rookie they traded in July for relievers Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin.
While the Yankees dangled Rivera, they might have refused to consider a Seattle request for left-handed starter Andy Pettitte.
The word is that George Steinbrenner will put a pile of money in a deal for a pitcher and might have done so to the Mariners, along with Rivera. He is making the same offer to Florida in discussions about right-hander Kevin Brown and to Montreal for right-hander Pedro Martinez.
Seattle can use the money, but it wants young and talented players who can help in 1998, ideally a starter and a left-handed-hitting outfielder or first baseman.
Chances are business will pick up for Seattle when Montreal trades Martinez and Florida trades Brown, both highly regarded starters. Both could be dealt as soon as tomorrow night - Martinez almost certainly to the Yankees, Cleveland, San Diego or Boston - when trades can be announced after the expansion draft.
"No guarantees of that," said Lee Pelekoudas, Seattle's assistant GM. "Right now, there's nothing imminent for us, nothing on the table."
If nothing breaks for Seattle today, it isn't likely to come together tomorrow when all clubs will focus on the expansion draft in Phoenix, which starts at 1 p.m. (PST).
Although each club's protected list is confidential, made available only to the two expansion teams, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mariners' list is not hard to guess.
It is heavy on major leaguers, with outfielder Shane Monahan as the only minor-league prospect protected. Monahan hit .302 at Class AA Memphis with 12 homers and 14 stolen bases (.294 in 12 games with Tacoma).
Seattle's likely list of protected major-league players:
Pitchers (8): Johnson, Jeff Fassero, Jamie Moyer, Heathcliff Slocumb, Paul Spoljaric, Bobby Ayala, Mike Timlin, Ken Cloude.
Catchers (1): Dan Wilson.
Infielders (3): Alex Rodriguez, Russ Davis, Edgar Martinez.
Outfielders (2): Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner.
Each expansion club will draft 35 players. Each current team will lose at least two players, and seven of them will lose a third. After losing a player, each team will add three players to its protected list.
Woodward said he isn't worried about the players his club will lose. Yet the Mariners figure to wince if infielder Andy Sheets or outfielder Raul Ibanez is taken.
Others expected to be left unprotected for the draft: right-handers Bob Wolcott, Felipe Lira and Edwin Hurtado; outfielder Rich Amaral, Rob Ducey and Lee Tinsley; and infielder Brent Gates.
Sheets currently is the only insurance they have at shortstop behind Rodriguez.
Ibanez currently is tearing up the Puerto Rican winter league, hitting .364 through Saturday. He hit .304 with 84 runs batted in for Tacoma last year.
In addition to their interest in closer Randy Myers, Seattle has inquired about two first basemen, John Olerud and David Segui, both of whom have Seattle ties.
Olerud, 29, had 102 RBI for the Mets last season and is an Eastside native and former standout player at Washington State.
Segui, 31, is the son of Diego Segui, who started for the Mariners in their first gameat the Kingdome on April 6, 1977. David Segui hit .307 with 21 home runs for Montreal last season.
Olerud told the Mets late in the season that before he agreed to return to them, he wanted to find out if Seattle was interested. The Mariners are, but not for the $13.5 million for three years he reportedly was offered by the Mets a week ago.