Archive for Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Mets, Devil Rays show interest in Piniella

October 16, 2002


— Lou Piniella may not be out of work very long.

After releasing Piniella from the final year of his contract because he wants to work closer to home, the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday fielded calls from other teams interested in talking with their ex-manager.

If he really wants a short commute from his Florida home, the Tampa Bay job is open. However, it's unlikely the budget-conscious Devil Rays would be able to pay him enough or be able to adequately compensate the Mariners for allowing him to manage elsewhere.

The New York Mets, however, are another story.

Although the team owes ex-manager Bobby Valentine $2.7 million for the final year of his contract, owner Fred Wilpon wants a high-profile individual with a background as a winner as the next bench boss. That comes with a high price tag.

Piniella fits that profile, managing Cincinnati to the World Series championship in 1990 and Seattle to a record 116 victories in 2001.

He also has New York roots, with two terms as manager of the Yankees, a team he played with for 11 seasons.

Piniella won't come cheap. He was due to make $2.5 million with the Mariners next season and would likely want at least three years at $3 million. That's well beyond the Tampa Bay budget.

The Mariners said they'd listen to both teams and the conversation could be compelling. In its statement releasing Piniella, Seattle included an important provision.

"The Mariners will seek to negotiate reasonable compensation from such clubs in exchange for releasing Lou from his employment contract," the team said.

That means players and/or cash.

On Tuesday, the Mets confirmed that Wilpon had spoken with Mariners president Chuck Armstrong to request permission to talk with Piniella.

Armstrong told the Mets that permission would be granted after the teams agree to a compensation package and that he would get back to Wilpon quickly.

"Assuming an agreement on compensation is reached, it is expected that Piniella will be interviewed shortly thereafter," the Mets said in a statement.

The Devil Rays also confirmed contact with the Mariners.

"Obviously, the next step is to talk with Seattle (about compensation)," Tampa Bay general manager Chuck LaMar said. "Outside of that, I'd rather not comment at this time."

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