Raul Ibanez will be joining the Mariners for a third go-round this coming spring.
All that remains to be seen after Ibanez, 40, agreed to a one-year, major-league contract with Seattle on Saturday night is determining the position where he’ll spend most of his time. The Mariners plan to use Ibanez in both outfield corners, at designated hitter and also at first base, in a pinch.
For now, the plan is to bring him to spring training and see how he fares alongside some of the younger players the Mariners have manning those spots. Where Ibanez fits will depend largely on how well or poorly some of the younger players perform and where the team needs help the most.
The Mariners confirmed the deal – which The Associated Press reported as a $2.75 million contract with another possible $1.25 million in incentives – but did not make an official announcement right away because they first had to make a corresponding 40-man roster move to free up room for Ibanez. That move does not have to be completed until Sunday.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik had stated at the winter meetings that he was looking to bring in veteran clubhouse leadership that could also perform on the field.
The team lost some of that leadership with the departure of catcher Miguel Olivo, but Ibanez and recently acquired outfielder Jason Bay are both known for their clubhouse presence. In the case of Ibanez, the Mariners have barely had any power production from their outfield corner spots since he left as a free agent after the 2008 season.
Ibanez signed a three-year, $30.million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and hit 70 home runs for them during that span. He also went to the postseason three times with them and again last season with the New York Yankees.
His extensive conditioning regimen, plus the fact he didn’t break into the majors until his late 20s, has enabled Ibanez to stay healthy enough to keep producing at an age most players have already retired.
Ibanez hit .240 with 19 home runs and a.767 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in a part-time role with the Yankees that saw him limited to 384 at-bats, the first time since 2002 he’d had under 500 at-bats in a season.
The signing of Ibanez means the Mariners are getting a bit crowded with players expected to perform a DH role, including Ibanez, Bay, Jesus Montero, Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak and John Jaso.
In Montero’s case, the move is a likely sign that, unless he gets traded, the Mariners could plan to use him more often behind the plate next season.