Much like many of us who travel far to return home and see family and relatives, news just broke that Raul Ibanez will be returning 'home' to Seattle for the third time. The only difference is that Ibanez will be making about $2.75 million with another $1.75 million in incentives, according to AP, and I'm guessing he won't be dealing with that weird aunt or uncle who pours too much 'Christmas cheer' in their eggnog and then rants about politics. Although, Erik Wedge seems like a guy who likes his eggnog.
With the price the Mariners are paying Ibanez, I don't mind this move too much. He hit better than many of the M's starters last year with a .240 AVG and .308 OBP. More importantly, he slugged .453 and hit 19 dingers in 130 games. The only Mariner with a higher SLG than that last year (minimum 100 ABs) was John Jaso. I love Jaso and all, but I think that says all you need to know about current state of the Mariners' offense.
Certainly there are a lot of positives to take away from this signing, but it's not all sugar plums and gumdrops. Ibanez will be turning 41 (He's like an offensive Jamie Moyer!) this June and his numbers have been declining the last few seasons. I wouldn't expect that to change as he returns to Safeco. I certainly don't expect a return to his stellar 2006 form when he hit 33 HR with the M's. Though, he's fought off the rigors of old age well and hasn't appeared in fewer than 100 games since 2000 and that was almost 13 years ago. What were you doing 13 years ago? Probably not making millions of dollars like Raul Ibanez. I was still in grade school. I feel like a failure now.
The biggest complaint I remember hearing about Ibanez as a Mariner was his defense. That certainly will be an issue, but he's played left field in Safeco before, so he can do it again. Of course, he could actually be a not awful DH as well. It's been a while since we batted one of those above the sixth spot in the lineup. There's also his "veteran presence" which is of course invaluable. Although, I wouldn't mind if he taught Justin Smoak a thing or two.
Plus, there's the added value of the former Mariner factor, which will be good continuity for all those fans that stopped watching the Mariners the past five years. "Hey, Rauuuuul! I love that guy and the giant wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek!"
All in all, I don't mind this signing at all. Like Kendrys Morales, Ibanez is a decent bat at a reasonable price. This signing should improve the team while still allowing flexibility in the payroll to sign one of the bigger names still on the market, if that's what Jack Zduriencik wants to do. I, for one, am crossing my fingers that Jack Z still has a few tricks he can pull from his big teal Christmas sack.