Arbitration likely to be offered to Ibanez

Arbitration likely to be offered to Ibanez

The Mariners are expected to offer free agent Raul Ibanez salary arbitration on Monday, but it will not guarantee that the popular and productive left fielder will return next season.

The move would, however, assure the organization of receiving two compensation Draft choices if the 36-year-old signs with another Major League club.

Although veteran infielders Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Cairo also have filed for free agency, they are not expected to be offered salary arbitration. Of the three, Ibanez is the only one ranked by the Elias Sports Bureau as a Type A (or B) player and therefore subject to free-agent compensation rules.

The rankings, which are based on player performance over the past two seasons, are used to determine whether players are Type A or Type B free agents. An organization that signs a Type A free agent and was among the 15 teams that had the best record last season, would lose its first-round Draft selection.

In addition, the Mariners would receive a so-called sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of June's First-Year Player Draft.

Ibanez would have until Dec. 7 to accept or reject the salary arbitration offer. If he accepts, he returns to the Mariners' 40-man roster. The player and club may continue to negotiate before the February arbitration hearing.

A club not offering arbitration may continue to negotiate with the player but does not receive compensation if he signs with another club.

"When you offer arbitration to a free agent, you must be prepared to have him accept and be prepared to keep him," Mariners assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas said.

If the player rejects a salary arbitration offer, he may continue to negotiate with any of the 30 clubs.

The Mariners have gone both ways in recent years. They decided not to offer right fielder Jose Guillen salary arbitration a year ago. He eventually signed a three-year contract with the Royals and Seattle did not receive compensation.

That is not expected to be the scenario played out with Ibanez, who led the Mariners in RBIs last season with 110 and ranked second with 23 home runs, hiking his four-year totals to 97 home runs and 427 RBIs.

Hot Stove

Recently hired general manager Jack Zduriencik told MLB.com that he has had recent discussions with Ibanez's agents, but would not comment further.

Ibanez said on the final day of the regular season that he would give the Mariners "final right of refusal" before signing with another organization. The Cubs are among the teams that have shown interest in signing Ibanez.

The Cubs are looking for a left-handed bat to hit in the middle of the order, and Ibanez has been mentioned as one possibility.

"Raul can hit, there's no question," Cubs manager Lou Piniella recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. "He's a professional bat, and he's that type of hitter that we're alluding to. ... And he's a great guy, no question. I like the guy. He's a professional hitter; he plays hard. He's a good player."

Piniella's opinion of Ibanez has done a flip-flop in less than 10 years.

When Ibanez was in the Mariners organization the first time -- mostly during Piniella's highly successful tenure as the Seattle manager from 1993-2002 -- Ibanez saw only limited action. Piniella always had doubts about Ibanez's offensive ability -- resulting in the outfielder becoming a free agent prior to the 2001 season.

Bloomquist, who has spent his entire career with the Mariners, batting .263 with six home runs and 98 RBIs in 540 games while playing seven positions, probably will sign with a National League club, while Cairo, who played in 108 games last season as a backup infielder/outfielder, could wind up playing for his 10th MLB organization during a 17-year professional career.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.