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Mariners cut ties with Rowland-Smith

Mariners cut ties with Rowland-Smith

SEATTLE -- Starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, who struggled through a tough season in Seattle last year, became a free agent Thursday night as the Mariners chose not to tender him a new contract after the two sides couldn't agree on a deal to avoid arbitration.

The Mariners did tender offers to three other arbitration-eligible pitchers -- relievers David Aardsma and Brandon League and starter Jason Vargas -- and avoided the arbitration process entirely by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with utility infielder Josh Wilson.

The contract decisions capped off a busy night for Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who also traded Jose Lopez to Colorado for Minor League pitcher Chaz Roe and re-signed veteran left-hander Erik Bedard to a non-guaranteed one-year deal.

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Rowland-Smith's decision was something of a surprise, given he made just $440,000 last year and wasn't as big a financial risk as Lopez. But coming off a 1-10 season with a 6.75 ERA, the Mariners chose to cut ties with the 27-year-old rather than enter the arbitration process.

"We talked about giving him a chance to come back and be part of the organization on our terms [rather than in arbitration], but in the end Ryan decided our terms were not necessarily what his were, so there was a parting of the ways," Zduriencik said in a conference call Thursday night. "In fairness to Ryan, we understand he went through a lot of things. He's shown flashes, but the end of the day, the two sides didn't meet. So as a result, we didn't tender him a contract."

Zduriencik said the door would be open for Rowland-Smith's return if he doesn't find what he's looking for on the open market.

The outgoing Australian was 11-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 253 1/3 innings with Seattle prior to last season and began the year as the team's No. 3 starter, but got off to a bad start and never recovered. He surrendered 25 home runs and 141 hits in 109 1/3 innings and wasn't helped by the lowest run-support average [2.88] in the American League.

Thursday's deadline required teams to tender contract offers to all unsigned players on their 40-man roster or release them to free agency. The primary issue revolves around arbitration-eligible players, since those are the ones who can push for higher contract numbers.

Aardsma, League and Vargas now enter that process. Players can file for arbitration between Jan. 5-15, with figures exchanged on both sides on Jan. 18. If no settlement is reached, arbitration hearings are scheduled between Feb. 1-21.

Aardsma and League both were eligible last season as well, but avoided arbitration by agreeing to deals of $2.75 million and $1.08 million respectively. They figure to increase those numbers this offseason.

Aardsma, 28, has saved 69 games over the past two seasons. League, 27, went 9-7 with a 3.42 ERA last year while pitching a career-high 79 innings in his first season in Seattle.

This will be the first arbitration eligibility for Vargas, who was 9-12 with a 3.78 ERA in his first full season as a starter, pitching with the third-lowest run support in the AL.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohns1 as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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