Morales, Ibanez, Perez draw interest, but Mariners are hesitant seller

Teams are waiting for the Mariners to start selling solid veterans , but Seattle is apparently in no hurry to start the sale.

Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Oliver Perez -- who has drawn interest from the Orioles, Braves and others -- are the most obvious and valuable veteran trade targets.

"We'll see how this week goes. I'm not going to be the aggressor,'' Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said by phone a couple days ago. "I'm not shopping anyone.''

One other Mariners person referred to their situation as "a Catch-22.'' They could sell off key veteran pieces such as Morales, Ibanez and Perez (the Rays are among teams who have asked about the hitters), but it could cause them to go into a free fall and also adversely affect their stash of top prospects who've already been called up.

The Mariners are currently 40-50 and 10 1/2 games out in the wild-card race

While there's probably some pressure on the front office to produce a winning season, one Mariners official said it's not a concern over themselves causing them to be reluctant to sell soon but rather a worry about what removing key veteran elements from the clubhouse and lineup might do to the younger players.

"If those guys are shipped out, we might finish 25 games out,'' the Mariners-connected person said. "We're concerned about the development of the young guys. We don't want to force (top young catching prospect Mike) Zunino to hit cleanup.''

The Orioles and Braves are among many teams said to have asked about Perez, who is 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA, is throwing in the mid-90s and has resurrected his career in Seattle. Competing execs mention how Perez is more cost-efficient in terms of prospects and cash than, say, Matt Thornton of the White Sox.

Morales and Ibanez could be a fit for a few teams. Seattle people have been wondering if the Yankees might call about Morales (so far they haven't) since they've lost Mark Teixeira, and Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner are slowing down. Ibanez, with 22 home runs, is on a record homer pace for an over-40 player, and while he's performing a slugging miracle it's possible some teams may wonder whether he can keep it up.

The Rays have checked in on Seattle's hitters, while the Rangers and Yankees are among other obvious contenders that could have interest.

The Mariners are employing several top prospects at the big-league level now, including Zunino plus shortstop Brad Miller, second baseman Nick Franklin and new center fielder Dustin Ackley, and they are having varying degrees of early success. But it's the veterans like Ibanez and Morales, who each has 51 RBI, who have carried them.

Michael Morse, who's hoping to come back from a quad injury, in the next few days, could also draw interest. Morse, like Morales, Ibanez and Perez, is free-agent eligible after the year. A Mariners person said they've gotten calls on injured center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, but realistically a litany of nagging injuries over the years might limit the take on him.

Other relievers, particularly closer Tom Wilhelmsen, have been getting some interest. But Zduriencik is said to be hesitant to trade him since he's under control for a few more years. The Red Sox, who have a closer need, have been interested in Wilhelmsen in the past.

Brendan Ryan, who lost his shortstop job to Miller, could also be of interest to someone as a defensive specialist on the infield.

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