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All Remains Quiet For the Nationals

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page E06

ANAHEIM, Calif., Dec. 11 -- Jim Bowden sat in his hotel suite Saturday evening dressed in a sweat suit and sneakers. "I'm not dressed for the podium," Bowden said glumly, "because I'm not going to the podium."

Thus far at baseball's winter meetings, the podium has been reserved for other general managers, those who are making deals and wearing suits. Bowden, the interim GM of the Washington Nationals, reiterated Saturday that talks with left-hander Odalis Perez are "probably on life support." It's also almost certain veteran shortstop Barry Larkin will bypass Washington.

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Fernando Cuza, a member of Perez's negotiating team, said his client -- who went 7-6 with a 3.25 ERA with Los Angeles in 2004 -- likely will receive a more lucrative deal than the three-year, $22.5 million pact Kris Benson signed with the New York Mets. Bowden, who met with Cuza and his associates late Friday night and again Saturday, said, "You can't really have an argument he's not in that range." Texas, Detroit and the New York Mets are believed to be making pitches for Perez.

"He might be the last man standing, but that's okay," Cuza said. "We'll get a good deal."

Larkin's agent, Eric Goldschmidt, said his client would like to play 100 games at shortstop in what would be his 20th season in the majors. Considering the Nationals signed 26-year-old Cristian Guzman to a four-year deal last month, that would be impossible in Washington.

"He wants to play more games at shortstop than I think Washington has to offer," Goldschmidt said.

So in his quest to add a veteran reserve, Bowden is now pursuing infielder Wil Cordero, who spent all but 27 games of 2004 on the disabled list with a knee injury while playing for Florida. When Cordero played in Montreal -- the Nats' former home -- in 2003, Manager Frank Robinson valued him as a "quiet leader." Cordero is deciding between one-year offers from the Nationals and the Mets.

Washington also released left-handed reliever Chad Bentz -- who went 0-3 with a 5.86 ERA in 2004 -- and now has two openings on its 40-man roster, which gives the team some flexibility for Monday's Rule 5 draft.

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