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Post-Griffey M's Need ARod

The Mariners want to talk, even if Alex Rodriguez isn't ready to decide his future.

After trading Ken Griffey Jr. to Cincinnati, Seattle chief executive officer Howard Lincoln said he wants to meet with his All-Star shortstop, who is eligible for free agency after the season.

Griffey, who could have been a free agent in October, asked to be traded to Cincinnati.

Rodriguez, who says he won't negotiate until he's on the open market, could be dealt if the Mariners determine they can't meet his price, expected to be around $20 million per season.

"Nothing has changed," Rodriguez told The Seattle Times. "I'm still evaluating. I'm listening to them, but I'm just going to sit back and wait."

His agent, Scott Boras, said Friday that nothing has changed: "The Mariners have not contacted me. If they did, they'd find that the answer is still the same as it was when we talked in November. Alex wants to wait until the end of the year to make a decision."

Rodriguez won't discuss an extension. The Mariners don't want to lose ARod without getting something in return.

"He is a very, very tradable commodity," Lincoln said.

Rodriguez has said he needs to see improvement in the Mariners. Even with Griffey and Rodriguez, Seattle finished third place in the four-team AL West behind Texas and Oakland the past two seasons and didn't even play .500 ball.

Since replacing Woody Woodward as Seattle's general manager, Pat Gillick has added free agents John Olerud, Aaron Sele, Arthur Rhodes, Stan Javier, Mark McLemore and Kazuhiro Sasaki.

"It's all about taking it to the next level," Rodriguez told The Seattle Times. "It's been frustrating not getting over the hump. I hope they continue to make moves. I'm really focused on having a good year."

Unlike Griffey, Rodriguez can't reject a trade as a 10-and-5 player: 10 years in the majors and five years with one ballclub.

Six years younger than the 30-year-old Griffey, Rodriguez was the 1996 AL batting champion with a .358 average and is a three-time All-Star.

He has a .308 batting average for the Mariners with 148 homers and 463 RBIs. Last season, Rodriguez hit .285 with 42 homers and 111 RBIs despite missing 32 games because of a knee injury.

Because he will be a free agent at such a young age, Rodriguez is expected to attract plenty of suitors.

While the Mariners got only Brett Tomko, Mike Cameron and minor leaguers Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer from Cincinnati for Griffey, Seattle received pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama and infielder Carlos Guillen from Houston when they dealt Randy Johnson on July 31, 1998.

The lesson is clear better to deal too early than too late.

Garcia and Halama are in Seattle's starting rotation and Guillen is slated to be the Mariners starting third baseman this season after having major knee injuries the past two years.

And while an unhappy Johnson slumped during his final four months with the Mariners and Griffey said he didn't want to return to Seattle, Rodriguez has a businesslike demeanor although he did speak out against Safeco Field, Seattle's new ballpark, calling it unfair to hitters.

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