LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Miguel Olivo came to the Seattle Mariners midway through the 2004 season – a fresh-faced, talented youngster and loaded with potential as a power-hitting catcher – as part of a trade with the Chicago White Sox.
Almost a year later, he was traded away midway through the 2005 season, never coming close to living up to expectations.
But Olivo will get a chance at redemption with the Mariners.
A Mariners source confirmed Thursday that a deal to bring back the veteran catcher has been agreed upon and will be finalized in the coming days, pending Olivo passing a physical. The official announcement should come sometime next week.
According to a report from Fox-sports.com, Olivo will sign a 2-year, $7 million contract.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik spoke with media Thursday morning, just after the Rule 5 draft, and said only that the team was having “in-depth” dialogues with a free agent catcher.
Reports had surfaced late Wednesday that the Mariners were interested in Olivo.
Now 32, Olivo hit .269 (106-for-394) with 14 home runs and 58 RBI for the Colorado Rockies last season. Upon closer inspection, Olivo hit .318 with 10 homers and 42 RBI and a .349 on-base percentage at hitter-friendly Coors Field, and just .211 with four homers and 16 RBI on the road.
Even the poor road numbers are a far cry from the awful numbers he put up with the Mariners.
In 104 games between the 2004 and ’05 seasons with Seattle, he hit .176 with a .218 on-base percentage and a .333 slugging percentage. Of course, he was in his mid-20s and seemed overwhelmed by Safeco Field, big league pitching and life as a catcher.
After leaving Seattle, Olivo has hit 10 or more home runs in every season since, including 23 in 2009 for the Kansas City Royals.
Over the past five years, Olivo hit .253 with a .287 on-base percentage and a .444 slugging percentage.
By agreeing to that type of contract, it’s clear that Olivo will be brought in to be the starting catcher.
It means the Mariners will have a decision to make about Adam Moore. He was thought to be the catcher of the future. But 2010 was a disappointment. He struggled early, got hurt and was demoted to Triple-A. Moore seemed to find his confidence with Tacoma and was called back up, but he couldn’t find any consistency at the plate or behind it.
He finished the season, hitting just .195 (40-for-205) with four homers and 15 RBI. He also had seven passed balls in 60 games – second most in the American League.
Moore was notified of the Olivo news by his agent and Mariners catching coordinator Roger Hansen.
M’S SELECT RELIEVER IN RULE 5 DRAFT
Leading up to Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft at the baseball winter meetings, Zduriencik said the Mariners would likely select an “upside” player instead of a “safe” pick.
Translation: the Mariners would go with sheer talent over the possibility of truly helping them this season.
Zduriencik kept his word by selecting hard-throwing right-hander Jose Flores from the Cleveland Indians organization with the second pick of the Rule 5 Draft.
Flores is just 21 and is a native of Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela. He played in Single-A Lake County of the Midwest League. He made 28 relief appearances, posting a 1-1 record with six saves and a 2.14 ERA (10 runs in 42 innings).
He struck 51 hitters and posted a 7.29 strikeout/walk ratio, striking out 31.3 percent of the batters he faced (51 of 163).
“He is an upside guy,” Zduriencik said. “He’s got a low- to mid-90s fastball. He’s got a good arm, he’s aggressive and he throws strikes.”
A player chosen in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft must remain in the major leagues for the entire 2010 season or he must be offered back to the original team for $25,000.
The Mariners lost one player in the draft. The Arizona Diamondbacks took OF Jose Rivero in the minor league portion of the draft.