(one of the least coveted giveaway items of recent memory ; May 5, 2006, Fred Meyer Mariners Collectible Train Night, The A-Train Car)

Or perhaps both? Seattle 3B Adrian Beltre is having surgery to remove bone chips in his left shoulder, a procedure that should keep him out of the M’s lineup for a lengthy stretch and possibly the rest of the season. “Nobody is going to deal for an aching, out-of-the-lineup third baseman before July 31” warns the Seattle TImes’ Steve Kelley, who despite admitting Beltre’s offensive production for the Mariners pales in comparison to his 2004 career year in Los Angeles, insists, “he has played the game hard, and it wasn’t a lack of work that lowered his production.”

As an example of his approach to the game, Beltre played the last two games of this weekend’s series against the Dodgers, knowing that at least a dozen times a game the pain in his shoulder was going to feel like he had been stabbed.

He never was the Adrian Beltre the Mariners expected he’d be when they handed him $64 million, but he still is one of the best third basemen in the game. His plusses greatly outweigh his minuses.

So manager Don Wakamatsu now must seek a short-term solution at third, while general manager Jack Zduriencik looks long-term at the position.

(Memo to the manager: Don’t move first baseman Russell Branyan to third. He is settled where he is. Don’t mess with that. Move Chris Woodward there, and know at least you have a savvy professional replacing Beltre.)

The long-term solution at third base is more problematic, but time is Zduriencik’s ally. Before Beltre’s return, the direction of the season will be set.

The Mariners either will be in the race or out of it, and Zduriencik will have to decide if signing a healthy Beltre to a three- or four-year deal at a reasonable price is doable.

Is that better than a mid-August waiver deal that will leave the Mariners looking for the next third-base solution?