Meche will be back in 2006

Mariners lock in Meche, but not Franklin

The Mariners announced Tuesday that they will not tender 2006 contract offers to Ryan Franklin, Cha Seung Baek and Jamal Strong, meaning all three will probably not be with Seattle next year.

At the same time, they will offer contracts to starter Gil Meche, relievers Julio Mateo and Rafael Soriano and utilityman Willie Bloomquist.

Of the players who were non-tendered, Franklin is the one with the most significant Major League experience. Baek and Strong, were only occasional additions to the big-league roster and spent most of their time in the Minor Leagues.

Franklin, who made more than 30 starts in each of the last three seasons for the Mariners, will either not return to Seattle or will come back in a relief role.

General manager Bill Bavasi said Seattle will look into retaining his services but couldn't guarantee that Franklin wouldn't get another offer and jump at it.

"We will speak to him," Bavasi said. "Pursue? We'll have to wait and see. He's earned the right to either sign a contract with us, go to arbitration, or become a free agent for the non-tender.

"The likelihood of him coming back here is not high."

If Franklin does leave the organization, his departure will come after two very difficult seasons. Franklin went 4-16 in 2004 and 8-15 in 2005 while suffering from minimal run support. He also was suspended 10 games in the 2005 season for a positive drug test.

Franklin made $2.6 million last year and would probably have been in line to receive a raise to $3 million or more next year through arbitration.

Meche, meanwhile, is the starting pitcher the Mariners decided to hold on to, at least for now, and despite the fact that he'll probably be in the $4 million range next year.

Meche throws harder than Franklin and has shown flashes of brilliance and bedeviling inconsistency over the last few years. In 2005, the right-hander, who turned 27 in September, went 10-8 with a 5.09 ERA, but at times he looked like the best starter on the staff.

It's possible that the Mariners could package Meche in a trade for another starting pitcher or hold on to him as their No. 5 guy in a rotation with Jamie Moyer, new acquisition Jarrod Washburn, Felix Hernandez and Joel Pineiro and hope for the best.

When asked why the Mariners decided on Meche over Franklin, Bavasi offered the following answer: "Our internal decision was based on what was the exposure vs. the return."

When asked if that meant Meche, with the mid-90s fastball, has better upside than Franklin, Bavasi said, "That is one way of looking at it."

Rumors have been swirling that the Mariners might be looking to trade for a more established starter than Meche, with Boston Red Sox righties Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo and Yankees righty Carl Pavano being popular names discussed.

But Bavasi said that he would scour the non-tender list just like any other club looking to upgrade a roster. Occasionally teams can find displaced diamonds in that pile, like the Red Sox did in 2003 when they scooped up David Ortiz, who had been discarded by the Minnesota Twins.

"I don't think there's going to be a lot there, but there's usually something out there," Bavasi said. "One of the guys we want to pursue is Ryan. It'll just be a different financial situation or approach. It just didn't make sense for us to tender him."

It made a lot of sense for the Mariners to tender Soriano and Mateo, who figure to be key components to Seattle's strong bullpen, and Bloomquist, who proved to be one of the club's most versatile backup players last year.

Meanwhile, the Mariners made a quiet move Tuesday when they claimed left-handed pitcher Jake Woods off waivers from the Angels and designated infielder/designated hitter Greg Dobbs for assignment.

"He probably does not have the stuff or arm strength that we have on the club right now, but he has probably more command," Bavasi said.

"He's not just a left-on-left guy. It's a shot at building up some arms that are more useful than maybe what we have right now."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.