PEORIA, Ariz. – The Seattle Mariners took a look at their future and saw Raul Ibanez in it.
The Mariners, operating on the premise that middle-of-the-lineup left-handed hitters aren’t plentiful, announced Tuesday that they have signed Ibanez to a two-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2008. The new deal will pay him $11 million over the two years.
“This was a high priority for us in the offseason,” general manager Bill Bavasi said. “There are so few real quality left-handed or switch hitters who can hit in the middle of the lineup and be as consistent as Raul. Since we have one here, it was important to lock him up.”
Ibanez, 33, batted .280 with 20 home runs and 89 RBI last season, and his 32 doubles gave him four straight seasons with 30 or more. He’s a career .283 hitter and his .286 average at Safeco Field is the third-best average of any player in the stadium’s history. Ichiro Suzuki has a .323 average at Safeco and Edgar Martinez batted .293 there.
Despite the opportunity to test the free agent market after this season, Ibanez said he wanted to remain with the Mariners. Except for three seasons with the Kansas City Royals from 2001-03, he has played in the Mariners’ organization since the club drafted him in the 36th round in 1992.
“The last two years have been rough, but I know that we’re headed in the right direction,” Ibanez said. “We’ve brought in new personnel and we’re improving ourselves. My family wants to be here. There’s no place else I want to be.”
Bavasi said it was important for the Mariners to finalize a contract with Ibanez before the season began.
“We did not ever get to the point where we had to discuss that,” Bavasi said. “From our point of view, it was important to get it done now to stay away from that question.”