PEORIA, Ariz. -- While the Mariners' future in Seattle is secure, the same can't be said for Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.

Even with baseball's best all-around player and its top young star, Seattle hasn't made it to the World Series, losing in the playoffs in 1995 and '97.After two more seasons, Junior and ARod will both be eligible for free agency, and the consensus is Seattle won't spend to keep them both. Because of the uncertainty, this may be the most edgy camp in baseball.

Ask a question this spring, and the common response is: "What do you mean by that?" Angles are scrutinized, answers pondered at length.

"They've got to make their own decisions," manager Lou Piniella says, "but certainly being competitive and winning will make them want to remain in Seattle."

Following the departure of Randy Johnson last July 31, it's not at all certain the Mariners can compete with Texas and Anaheim in the AL West. And 1999 might be their last chance. There already is speculation Seattle might trade Rodriguez after this season, when the Mariners still can get a lot in return.

"We would like to have them both play their entire careers here," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said. "That's what we'd like to happen."

It may take more than $350 million to keep them both, almost as much as the $498 million it is costing to construct Safeco Field, the retractable-roof ballpark the Mariners move into July 15.

"This franchise is in Seattle now to stay," Piniella says. "The stadium is certainly a symbol of it."

Griffey and Rodriguez are the cornerstones of the club as it moves into the new building, the best offensive duo on the same team since Oakland's Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, or perhaps even Cincinnati's Johnny Bench and Tony Perez.

At 29, Griffey already has 350 career home runs, including 56 in each of the last two seasons, and Hank Aaron's career record of 755 is within reach. He is a nine-time All-Star and Gold Glove, and last year joined Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as the only players to reach 140 RBIs in three straight seasons.

Increasingly, he seems tired of the spotlight. Last year, he refused to participate in the All-Star home run contest until booing fans at Coors Field changed his mind.

The constant questions annoy him. Just asking him what Seattle must do to improve this season sets him off.

"What does last year have to do with this year?" he responds. "This sounds like it's going to be negative."

After repeated prodding, he says the team must be "more consistent," Asked if he must be more consistent, too, Griffey answers: "I guess 140 RBIs isn't enough."

Even an innocuous question, such as how often did he work out during the offseason, draws a testy reply.

"I don't lift weights. I don't run. I don't work out. Some people don't have to. . . . Can't I have a real life like other people, live with my kids?"

Of late, he opens up only with the local beat writers.

"The Mariners shouldn't be concentrating on me right now, they shouldn't be concentrating on Alex," he told The News Tribune of Tacoma in January. "They've got to get somebody who can get some damned outs. I'm signed for two more years. Alex is signed for two more years. I'm not going to sign something now -- I don't want to be stuck in a situation where we're good one year and not the next."

Griffey has two seasons left in a $34 million, four-year contract, one that made him baseball's highest-paid player when he agreed to the extension in January 1996. His agent, Brian Goldberg, swapped proposals with the Mariners during spring training and is willing to negotiate during the season.

"Their message to me is every team has parameters, but they had the go-ahead from ownership to try and lock up both," Goldberg says. "Money is not an issue. He's going to get it no matter where."

Rodriguez, just 23, has two seasons left in a $10.6 million five-year deal and will be eligible for free agency at the unusually young age of 25.

He won a batting title in 1996, became the fourth-youngest player to reach 100 career homers and is coming off power bests of 42 homers and 124 RBIs last season. His agent, Scott Boras, already is sending signals that $200 million for 10 years may be the demand.

"When you're two years away, why think about it now?" says Rodriguez, coveted by many large-market teams.

Boras said this week that Rodriguez won't even consider an extension until after this season.

"His primary consideration as to how he thinks about the future will depend on the desire of ownership to consistently give his club and himself the opportunity to win every year," Boras says. "One thing he always admired about the Yankees and Dodgers of the past was their clubs were always in the thick of things every year. When he came to the big leagues in 1995, Seattle was in the hunt every year. They have filled that bill with the exception of 1998. He just wants to see what happens in 1999."

Would Rodriguez tie his decision to Griffey's?

"Alex and I have never discussed that," Boras says. "Alex wants to play with players who give you the opportunity to win. A player like Griffey certainly gives you an opportunity to be associated with a winner."