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...only slightly more encouraging than your Wednesday night news. Morosi talks about free agent pitchers, citing more "industry sources" who claim that the Mariners remain the favorites to land Kevin Millwood, but then he shifts gears to Sidney Ponson, who remains an awful idea. The last thing we need to be seeing in print right now is Mike Hargrove calling the Aruban lush "a smart person" who has "a lot to offer." Tucked neatly into the bottom of the article is this additional little nugget:

Five players -- Willie Bloomquist, Ryan Franklin, Julio Mateo, Gil Meche and Rafael Soriano -- are eligible for salary arbitration. All but Meche are expected to return.

Zounds.

Moving on, the Times piece has a little more information, with Finnigan saying that the Mariners have offered two years to Scott Elarton and four (expensive) years to both Millwood and Jarrod Washburn. The more interesting story here, though, is that Bavasi has reportedly countered Boston's Clement/Reed trade idea with a request for Bronson Arroyo instead. My favorite part:

..."But a lot of people would prefer to have Arroyo, and not only because he makes less for the same job. He's got a great sinker and gets a lot of grounders.

"That's a huge plus if you have a good defensive infield, and Seattle does. Of course, Clement is a fly-ball pitcher, and a big park would be a plus for him, too."

Last year, Bronson Arroyo's GB/FB of 0.85 ranked 87th out of 93 qualified pitchers. Matt Clement, at 1.29, was 43rd. It's not like it's a one-year thing, either - Arroyo's at 0.98 for his career, with Clement coming in at 1.67. Scouts can be stupid sometimes.

Of course, the real question here is whether or not a Reed/Arroyo trade would make sense for Seattle. The short answer: no, no it wouldn't. Arroyo was an intriguing pitcher a year ago, but he's coming off a season in which his strikeout rate collapsed and he allowed more fly balls. With an FIP of 4.48, Arroyo was essentially a league-average pitcher; with an xFIP of 5.41, though, you could say that he was actually one of the worst starters in the league. He'll only be 29 next year, so he should be able to get some of his strikeouts back as he builds up his endurance as a 200-inning starter, but dealing a guy like Jeremy Reed for that kind of pitcher is a pretty questionable move at the best of times.

Really, I'd prefer that Bavasi just give Kevin Millwood whatever he wants, because I'm not real thrilled about the other names that've been floating around these last few weeks. Millwood's good. Most of the other guys aren't, and they certainly aren't worth one of the better young center fielders in baseball. Dammit, Bill, don't ruin my winter.