SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Mariners officially announced their $2.75 million, one-year deal with outfielder Raul Ibanez on Wednesday, returning the veteran to where he began his major league career in 1996.
Seattle confirmed an agreement with Ibanez over the weekend but needed to clear a roster spot before making the transaction official. That took place when the Mariners designated for assignment right-handed pitcher D.J. Mitchell, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Mitchell was acquired from the New York Yankees in the trade last July for Ichiro Suzuki.
The deal allows Ibanez to earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses. This will be his third stint with the Mariners, after rejoining them from 2004-08.
“Raul is the ultimate professional both on and off the field,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said in a statement. “His veteran presence will be invaluable to our younger group of players.”
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has said the team wanted to add veteran leadership in the offseason. The 40-year-old Ibanez hit .240 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 384 at-bats for the Yankees last season.
Including the playoffs, Ibanez hit five home runs that tied the score for the Yankees and eight that put New York ahead, according to STATS. He homered twice after entering as a pinch hitter on Sept. 22 in a 10-9, 14-inning win over Oakland. And with New York fighting for the AL East title, he delivered a tying, pinch-hit homer against Boston in the ninth Oct. 2 and then singled in the winning run in the 12th.
Then in Game 3 of the division series against Baltimore, he became the first player in major league history to homer twice in a postseason game he didn’t start. He pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning and hit a tying home run, then hit a winning shot in the 12th.
Three days later, his two-run homer in a four-run ninth inning tied the AL championship series opener against Detroit, a game the Yankees lost 6-4 in 12 innings as the Tigers started their way to a four-game sweep.
Whether there’s another season of production left in Ibanez’s bat is uncertain. He’ll be joining the worst offensive team in baseball, which has tried to make incremental upgrades during the offseason but has been unable to make a huge splash.
Seattle last week added power-hitting Kendrys Morales in a trade that sent left-hander Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels. Former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero started 77 games at designated hitter last season for the Mariners and 55 behind the plate, so Ibanez’s acquisition by the Mariners could make catcher John Jaso expendable. Jaso made 39 starts behind the plate and 44 at DH.
The Mariners also signed former Mets slugger Jason Bay to a one-year deal in the hope that he could restart a career that fell off in New York. But there remain questions about whether any of the three can make a significant difference to Seattle’s scuffling offense.
“In Raul we have a player and person with outstanding leadership skills who has participated in postseason play the last several years,” Zduriencik said. “We will give Raul the opportunity to come in and compete and add an additional veteran presence to this ball club.”
In 17 major league seasons that also included time with Kansas City (2001-03) and Philadelphia (2009-11), Ibanez has a .278 career average with 271 home runs and 1,116 RBIs.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.