After more reports leaked this afternoon that an agreement has been reached, a source within the Mariners confirmed that the team has signed Raul Ibanez to a one-year contract for the 2013 season. It’s reportedly for about $2.75 million, which basically the money saved in the Kendrys Morales-Jason Vargas trade.
Now age 40, the Mariners are bringing in Ibanez to be a bat off the bench, a sometime starter and a veteran presence in the clubhouse for the host of young players on the Mariners roster.
Obviously, there is some skepticism surrounding the signing of Ibanez, particularly what his role and playing time will be. They have a glut of outfield/DH types on the roster right now. But players like Eric Thames and Justin Smoak have Triple A options left. Also Eric Wedge admitted that he simply can’t allow himself to rely on Franklin Gutierrez playing 140 games or even 100 game games season, and there is no guarantee Jason Bay even makes the team.
The Mariners have to make a corresponding move to make room on the 40-man roster. They aren’t going to do it tonight. Likely candidates could be young pichers DJ Mitchell or Yoervis Medina. There is talk that the team is also working on corresponding deal – a trade – to make room as well.
This will be Ibanez’s third stint with the Mariners. He was with the team from 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 to 2008. 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).
In his four seasons since last appearing for the Mariners (2009-2012), Ibañez averaged 30 doubles, 22 home runs, 80 RBI and 141 games played a season with the Philadelphia Phillies (2009-2011) and New York Yankees (2012). He was a National League All-Star in 2009 and a postseason hero for the Yankees last season.
With the Yankees in 2012, Ibañez hit .240 (92×384) with 19 doubles, 3 triples, 19 home runs and 62 RBI in 130 games while playing left field (80 G/65 GS), designated hitter (23 GS) and right field (13 G/11 GS). In 8 postseason games he combined to bat .318 (7×22) with 3 home runs and 5 RBI. In Game 3 of the American League Division Series vs. the Baltimore Orioles he hit a game-tying pinch-hit solo home run in the bottom of the 9th inning (to tie the game 2-2) and a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Ibañez became the first player in Major League history to hit two score-tying or go-ahead home runs in the 9th inning or later in one postseason game.
During his 17-year Major League career Ibañez has combined to hit .278 (1883×6771) with 396 doubles, 46 triples, 271 home runs and 1,116 RBI in 1,947 games. In 10 seasons with the Mariners (1996-2000, 2004-2008), Ibañez hit .284 (967×3407) with 127 home runs. When he appears in a game in 2013 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 club history to have three separate stints with the Mariners.
Ibañez was originally selected by the Mariners in the 36th round of the 1992 June Draft out of Miami-Dade Community College. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 1, 1996 vs. the Milwaukee Brewers.