Mariners Bring Back Raul

Former Tacoma Rainiers slugger Raul Ibanez has agreed to sign a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, according to multiple reports. This will be his third go-around with the Mariners.

The 40-year-old Ibanez played for Tacoma from 1996 through 2000, and he came back on an injury rehabilitation assignment in 2004. He ranks in the top-20 on the Tacoma all-time career leaderboards in hits (17th), runs (16th), total bases (16th), doubles (16th), and runs batted in (18th).

When he was in Tacoma initially as a young up-and-comer, he spent a lot of time here – mostly because Mariners skipper Lou Piniella was unsure if Ibanez could hit major league pitching. It wasn’t until Ibanez became a minor league free agent and signed with Kansas City that he finally got a true big league opportunity, and he made the most of it.

For his career, Ibanez has 1,883 hits and 271 home runs – not including an additional six home runs in the playoffs, half of which came just three months ago for the Yankees.

The general reaction among many Mariners fans seems to be, “I like Raul, but his career is just about over. Why did they sign him?”

That’s a good question, and I think I know why.

Eric Wedge has spoken in the past about the team needing a veteran influence on the roster. Ibanez fits the profile perfectly – he is extremely popular in the clubhouse, one of the most respected players in the game for his work ethic and how he handles himself. The Mariners are hoping this rubs off on the young position players surrounding him.

As for playing time, I would be surprised if Ibanez is more than a pinch-hitter and occasional spot-starter in favorable match-ups. Maybe he’ll get hot at some point and play regularly for a week or two, but in the big picture I would not expect him to take meaningful playing time away from any of the young players.

Raul is truly one of the nice human beings in the game. It’s thrown about all the time that such-and-such player is “a good guy,” but the reality is that almost all baseball players are good people – just like regular people everywhere. That being said, Raul stands out above the crowd in terms of how he handles himself around the team, both publicly and privately.

It will  be good to have him in a Seattle uniform this season, and I suspect that the club would be proud to have him retire as a Mariner.

The Mariners also signed former major league starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract, and I suppose we must consider him as a potential Rainiers player Рalthough it is a little early for that, because of this: Bonderman has not pitched since 2010 due to arm problems that eventually led to elbow surgery.

The Mariners are bringing the Pasco native in to spring training on a no-risk gamble. In fact, there are reports that the Mariners didn’t even scout him in-person; they just said “come to spring training and we’ll take a look.”

So that’s exactly what they will do: keep an eye on Bonderman. He had Tommy John surgery in April and recently began throwing again. Even if he looks promising in March, don’t be surprised if he has to stay back in extended spring training before joining a team, building up arm strength.

Links:

  • Stories on Raul Ibanez signing with the Mariners: one from Ryan Divish of The News Tribune, and one from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.
  • In this blog post, Baker talked to Ibanez to get his thoughts on coming back. Not surprisingly, Raul is already talking about helping the young kids.
  • As I post this, the Mariners have not made a complimentary move to fit Ibanez on the 40-man roster. They have reached a point where it is hard to find a player on the roster who has a good chance of getting through waivers (the last player removed, Mauricio Robles, was claimed by the Phillies). Don’t be surprised if they make a small trade instead, moving a 40-man roster player to another club in exchange for a prospect who is not on the 40-man.
  • Here is more on the Mariners signing pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
  • Former Rainiers in the latest round of Baseball America’s minor league transactions: Brad Nelson signed with his home-state Iowa Cubs, and Ryan Langerhans inked a deal with Toronto.
  • USA Today did a slideshow of 50 Strangest Sports Team Names. I was highly entertained – there is a little blurb on the origin of each name. As you might expect, Minor League Baseball is well-represented – but not so much as the colleges. Scottsdale Community College might have the best mascot. High schools are covered, too.
  • In the PCL, the New Orleans Zephyrs are going to host their parent club the Miami Marlins in an exhibition game at Zephyr Field at the end of spring training. It will be the first major league exhibition in New Orleans since 1999.
  • Looking for a last-second Christmas gift for a loved one? How about this 23,000 square foot mansion being sold by Chipper Jones?

Have a great holiday!

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