They took a while, but the Mariners finally made the Raul Ibanez signing official today along with the corresponding 40-man roster move. Minor league pitcher D.J. Mitchell, acquired in the Ichiro trade back in July, was designated for assignment, meaning the Mariners now have 10 days to trade him, release him or try to outright him through waivers.
Mitchell went 3-2 with a 2.96 ERA in eight starts for Class AAA Tacoma after the deal. He struck out 33 and walked 19over 48 2/3 innings.
We already spoke to Ibanez, 40, a few days ago and gave you his comments on the blog. But I also spoke by phone with GM Jack Zduriencik about the move and what he has in store for Ibanez and the other players who play positions similar to those in his skillset.
“I think what we’re going to do right now is give him a chance to come to camp and compete with our other players already here,” Zduriencik said. “After that, we’ll have a better idea of where this all shakes out.”
Now, Zduriencik isn’t talking about Ibanez winning a job so much as he is one of his younger players holding on to theirs. Ibanez is guaranteed $2.75 million and that’s not as easy to write off as some of those deals he gave to veteran relievers cut in spring training last season. Everybody associated with the Mariners expects Ibanez to make the team and get at least 400 at-bats. Otherwise, he would not have been guaranteed so much money.
Zduriencik also cautioned that the off-season isn’t over yet and that things could happen before camp that might clarify where Ibanez would be best needed. He’s excited about the leadership Ibanez brings to the clubhouse and thinks it will have a positive impact on the younger players already there. For now, he said, he’s going to look at Ibanez in left and right field,as a DH and also at first base. I specifically asked him about first base.
“Oh yeah, we’ll take a look at him there as well,” Zduriencik said. “He’s played there in the majors and knows the position and so if we need him, we’re fully confident he can play there.”
I asked about Jesus Montero and whether a move like this — which potentially takes away DH time from him — would mean more catching is ahead for him.
“I’d like to think so,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve given him a list of things he has vto do this winter to get better and I’d hope that we see some of that from him this spring. A lot of what he shows us will dictate that, but as of right now, yeah, I’d hope we would be able to see more of him back there.”
Now, that doesn’t mean we should all be writing Montero’s name in there for 80 games behind the plate. As Zduriencik noted, there is still plenty of time left before camp opens,
“I’ve said all along that things can change and names can change between now and spring training and even up to the start of the regular season,” Zduriencik said. “A lot can happen, so we’ll just see how it all plays out and take it from there.”