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So today's rumor is that the Mariners are interested in Tomo Ohka. The fact that they've contacted his hilariously-named agent doesn't mean much of anything by itself, since they're going to call dozens upon dozens of agents in the comings weeks (and have already contacted several, including at least two representing outfielders), but it's still always the first step towards more serious negotiations, so we can't just automatically ignore this and move along.

Ohka, although nothing special, is moderately appealing as a back-of-the-rotation starter, the sort that the Mariners desperately need. The problem, though, is that Ohka's just like every other decent arm on the free agent market - a useful pitcher who's asking for way too much money. It starts at the "top" with Schmidt/Zito and continues into the next few tiers with the Lilly/Meche/Eaton/Armas/Ohka types. What does it tell you when Vicente Padilla's going into free agency asking for $40m/4yr? Ohka's probably going to want three years around $6m per, and giving him anything close to that is indefensibly silly. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is an awful time to need three starting pitchers. Unless the front office is smart about how they maneuver through the market, we could have a ton of dead weight on our hands come 2009.

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Via Ken Rosenthal, we hear that Gil Meche is a popular guy. His agent suggests that more than 15 teams have called him about his favorite client, with at least five of them having Gil at the top of their wish list. If you ever needed proof that GM's are lousy talent evaluators, there you go. So much was made of Meche's "breakout season" that nobody stopped to realize that a breakout season for Gil Meche is an average season for the rest of the league. The only - only - way to justify the contract Gil's going to get is to possess irrefutable proof that he's about to have a Chris Carpenter-like leap in performance, and I don't see how that would be possible to ascertain. A team with a standout pitching coach like the Orioles, Cardinals or Mets would be a reasonable destination, but he's still going to get too much money.

My favorite line of the article?

Meche, 55-44 lifetime with a 4.65 ERA, is similar to what A.J. Burnett was last off-season, a 28-year-old with upside.

Last winter AJ Burnett had a career 3.73 ERA, a terrific strikeout rate, and was coming off one of the most dominant seasons in the league. To put it another way, the best season of Meche's career is right around the worst of Burnett's. Aside from age and injury history, there's no comparison. They both have "good natural talent," but only one of them's actually taken advantage of it.

Oh yeah, and Meche in Boston or New York? Yes, please.

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The buzz right now seems to be that the Red Sox have won the Matsuzaka bidding with an offer around $40-45m, with the Rangers and Yankees falling short with bids near $30m. The Mariners were never going to come anywhere close to that, and Yamauchi probably knew it, which could be why he never even bothered trying. That's an absolutely insane amount of money to spend just for the rights to talk to a guy, no matter how good he may be.

We'll see what comes out of this. If and when the Red Sox lock Matsuzaka up to a multiyear contract, there'll be a lot of people adding in the posting fee and saying "they're giving him $20-25m per year," but we won't know that until we see what effect, if any, this has on their payroll. Boston's executives are sitting on top of a limitless pile of resources, so they could afford to pay the fee out of their own pocket without taking much of a hit. I can't say for certain how all the money's going to work out in the end, but I'm sure the organization's going to be fine. The price is crazy, but the Sox and Yankees are in a whole other universe, and don't have to abide by the same principles as everyone else if they don't want to.

In the meantime, while it sucks to miss out on the prize of the market, at least Matsuzaka's going to Boston rather than either of the other two. Putting him in Texas would've been murder for the Mariners, and seeing New York fall short only makes them more likely to spend out the ass on this winter's iffy free agents. So it sort of works out for us, even if it really didn't. Or something.

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Jimmy Carr is funny.

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The Hardball Times 2007 Annual is almost ready to ship. Buy it. You'll be glad you did. It may not get the same circulation as Baseball Prospectus (or it might, who knows), but it's the better volume, so if for some reason you're on a $15 budget and can only afford one of them, this is the one you want.