When Woody Woodward says “nothing’s going on” in the Randy Johnson trade mart, as he did several times last week, the Seattle general manager means nada, nil, zilch.
So quiet has it been on the Johnson front that when Mariners officials shared a conference-call strategy session, the pitcher’s name hardly was mentioned.
Not that Woodward has given up on the possibility. “We’re in a holding pattern,” he said. “I’m not frustrated at all. I’m just waiting to see if something breaks.”
In the meantime, the M’s are proceeding as if Johnson will be on the mound for them Opening Day, a scenario they have proclaimed consistently they will be happy with.
“It doesn’t seem like a trade is coming right now,” manager Lou Piniella said. “And that’s far from the worst thing that can happen to a team like ours. Randy will help make us a winner for that one year.”
While Piniella has no worries in that area, the rest of the club is another matter. “We have only nine major-league players on our roster. We have five, six openings. We’d better start working on getting our holes filled.”
To that end, the Mariners are closing in on signing a first baseman. Fans can expect either Paul Sorrento back or David Segui to come as a free agent from Montreal.
Seattle also needs a couple of backup infielders, a backup catcher, another outfielder - preferably one to carry the load in left field. In a perfect world, the Mariners also would sign a veteran pitcher to be the fourth or fifth starter without converting Paul Spoljaric or taking another flier on Felipe Lira or Edwin Hurtado.
In an ideal world, they would be able to move Johnson to acquire some needed parts - a starter, a left-handed hitter, possibly a closer.
But unable to move Johnson, they are boxed into a strict payroll structure that allows them only so much ability to sign veteran bench players in a market where salaries have taken another upward spiral.
The Mariners, for instance, might have been interested in free-agent infielder Bill Spiers of Houston and catcher Greg Myers of Minnesota. Spiers re-signed with the Astros and doubled his $600,000 salary. Myers signed with San Diego, going from $575,000 to $1 million.
First item on Seattle’s shopping list is a middle infielder to back up Alex Rodriguez at shortstop.
There has been no mention of alterations to the bullpen. That’s because the M’s are ready to go with the 1997 group again, probably without lefty Norm Charlton.
“We can return the same relief pitchers,” Woodward said weeks ago. “I expect some of them to perform better than they did this year.”
One addition could be Rafael Carmona, whom the Mariners expected big things from this past season but shipped out after he reported to camp out of shape.
That seemingly is all right with Piniella.
“I think that’s good enough,” he said. “I don’t think we have to mess with the bullpen.”
Carmona, however, will be out three to six months after breaking both bones in his right forearm in a car accident Sunday night in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.