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Ibanez talk idle as Mariners eye righty bat

Ibanez talk idle as Mariners eye righty bat


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Raul Ibanez led the Mariners with 29 home runs last season at age 41, general manager Jack Zduriencik indicated Monday at the Winter Meetings that re-signing the veteran outfielder is not a high priority right now for a club more in need of adding a right-handed bat.

Ibanez has said he'd like to play another year after hitting .242 with 65 RBIs and tying Ted Williams' record for most home runs hit by a player while in his 40s. But the opportunity to break that record might have to come from another team.

"We're very fond of Raul," Zduriencik said. "We have to sift through some things at these Meetings, primarily because we are so left-handed. As much as he and I would like to get something done, I think we need a little more time to figure out how we're going to allocate and what opportunities present themselves here. And that's hard to say because he had such a good year and he's such a great guy. But we certainly again are touching all our bases on a lot of players."

The Mariners are on the verge of finalizing a deal for left-handed-hitting second baseman Robinson Cano and also have left-handers Kyle Seager at third base and Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders in the outfield.

Seattle has just three returning outfielders from last year's final Major League roster in Ackley, Saunders and September callup Abraham Almonte, who is a switch-hitter, so a right-handed hitter there would be optimal.

"It would be very important," Zduriencik said. "That could very well be our main focus. But I also think if you can add talent, you just have to take a chance. Even though we are more left-handed oriented than I'd like to be right now, you still have to try to improve your club. But preferably a right-handed bat would be better."

The top right-handed-hitting outfielders on the free-agent market include Nelson Cruz and Corey Hart, while Shin-Soo Choo is a left-hander.

Zduriencik said he'd like to add one outfielder, possibly two if things fell right. But utility man Willie Bloomquist can play the outfield, so that adds some depth after the veteran signed a two-year deal last week.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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