By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners have decided to call on a familiar name to hopefully be a leader on a team full of youngsters.
On Saturday, a source within the Mariners confirmed that the team had reached an agreement with Raul Ibanez on a one-year contract. Several reports said Ibanez will make $2.75 million next season.
This will be Ibanez’s third different stint with the Mariners. But at age 40, what role could he possibly have on this team?
The Mariners are hoping that he provides veteran leadership in the clubhouse. A tireless worker, who is maniacal about preparation, the hope is Ibanez can serve as an example and a mentor to the wealth of young players on the Mariners’ roster.
As for on the field, Ibanez will likely be a bench player used for pinch hitting and spot starts at designated hitter and emergency situations in the outfield.
That was supposed to be his role with the Yankees this past season. But injuries to Brett Gardner and later Mark Teixeira forced Ibanez to play in a platoon role in left field and at DH for much of the season.
He appeared in 130 games last season, hitting .240 with 19 homers and 62 RBI. Baseball fans will remember his ninth inning, game-tying home run and 12th inning, walk-off home run against the Orioles in Game 3 of the American League Division Series this past postseason.
There will need to be a corresponding move to make room for Ibanez on the 40-man roster. But the Mariners weren’t ready to make that move on Saturday night. Rumors of another possible trade could be slowing that decision.
Right now, the Mariners have several first base/outfielder/DH types on the 40-man roster. However, manager Eric Wedge isn’t in a position to rely on the oft-injured Franklin Gutierrez as an everyday player based on the last two seasons, or count on recent signee Jason Bay, who has had his injury issues, even making the team out of spring training. Players like Justin Smoak and Eric Thames have Class AAA options available if needed. Meanwhile, Casper Wells and Mike Carp could be trade bait or roster casualties this spring.
Ibanez was a 36th round draft pick in the 1992 amateur draft by the Mariners and made his big-league debut on Aug. 1, 1996.
He was with the team from 1996 to 2000 and then returned in 2004 and played until 2008.
In 10 seasons with the Mariners (1996-2000, 2004-2008), Ibanez hit .284 with 127 home runs. If Ibanez appears in a game in the 2013 season, he’ll join Mike Blowers (1992-95, 1997, 1999), Norm Charlton (1993, 1995-97, 2001) and Jeff Nelson (1992-95, 2001-03, 2005) as the only players in Mariners history to have three different stints with the club.
He ranks among the Mariners all-time leaders in nearly every offensive category, including home runs (127, 7th), RBI (547, 7th), extra base hits (341, 7th), hits (967, 8th), games played (986, 8th) and slugging percentage (.464, 9th).