Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 12/25/12
Ibanez returns for another go As if Jason Bay and Kendrys Morales weren’t enough, now the Mariners have gone out and signed Raul Ibanez. The 40-year-old returns to Seattle for his third stint with the M’s, and first since 2008. What does Ibanez bring to the table? Just like with Bay, Seattle is hoping Ibanez will bring some much needed power to its lineup. Ibanez’s second stint with the Mariners—2004-2008—was an era in which Seattle was spending on free agents that “should have been something,” but weren’t. Ibanez was one of the few that “was.” Over those five seasons Ibanez hit .291/.354/.477 with 113 home runs and 489 RBI. He was one of the few Mariners of that era that could actually hit at Safeco. So in theory he should be even better now that the fences are moving in. But Ibanez is still a 40-year-old, and hasn’t hit higher than .245 over his last two seasons. In that same time he’s seen his walk rate drop about 3.0 percent. But he’s kept his power numbers up, averaging 22 home runs a season since turning 36. He should be a lock for at least 15-20 in 2013. Can Ibanez bring some heroics to Seattle? (Photo: US Presswire) How will the lineup shake down? Ibanez has never been known for his defense prowess, but he did play a surprisingly high 93 games in the outfield for the Yankees last season. With the signing of Bay—and Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders already in the outfield—it’s unclear where Ibanez fits in. He will surely split his time between left field and DH, as the Mariners still lack a lock at the designated hitters spot. Ibanez posted a .812 OPS against righties last season, but that sunk down to a .492 against lefties. It is a possibility that he could platoon in left with the right handed Jason Bay. Either way, the Mariners are sure to find a spot for Ibanez in the everyday lineup. Smoak could be traded any day now With the signing of Ibanez, Justin Smoak’s time in Seattle remains limited. The young first baseman has been supplanted from his position by the acquiring of Kendrys Morales. His only other hope for playing time is as a designated hitter. But with Raul Ibanez, the M’s now have a packed DH committee—Jesus Montero, John Jaso, Morales and Ibanez should all split time there in 2013. Smoak now has limited options for full playing time. And even as a 26-year-old that’s incredibly important. With no need for him I see no other ending, but Seattle cutting ties. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE MARINERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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