SEATTLE — So…Justin Ruggiano.
The Mariners culminated their search for a second right-handed bat Wednesday by acquiring outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Chicago Cubs in a trade for minor-league reliever Matt Brazis.
“Was it a surprise?” Ruggiano echoed. “In a way it was, but I am never really shocked by (a trade) anymore."
Ruggiano ranks as an under-the-radar acquisition after the Mariners failed to sign free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera. They were also linked to several other high-profile targets before landing Ruggiano.
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“He has versatility,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He has defensive ability, and he has power. If you break down his numbers at different segments of his career, he’s been a guy who can get on base.
“I think it’s nice, well-rounded package that we’re acquiring.”
Ruggiano, 32, is a six-year veteran who batted .281 last season with six homers and 28 RBIs in 81 games despite missing the final five weeks because of an injured left ankle that required surgery to remove bone spurs.
“I probably finished rehab on the ankle about three weeks ago,” he said. “It’s 100 percent right now. It’s probably the reason I had a hamstring injury (earlier) last year. I’m glad I got that bone spur cleaned up.”
Zduriencik confirmed Ruggiano checked out fine in the Mariners’ pre-trade medical examinations.
“Everything has been reviewed,” Zduriencik said. “(Trainer) Rick Griffin and (doctor) Ed Khalfayan had all the consultations on it. There is no problem at all. He’ll be fine.”
The Mariners cleared space for Ruggiano on their 40-man roster by designating right-hander Logan Bawcom for assignment.
Bawcom, 26, was 4-4 with a 4.93 ERA in 40 relief appearances for Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners acquired him with outfielder Leon Landry in a July 30, 2012 trade from the Dodgers for reliever Brandon League.
Brazis, 25, was picked as the organization’s reliever of the year after going 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 40 games at Hi-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson. He was a 28th-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Ruggiano is eligible for arbitration after making $2 million but is under club control through the 2016 season. He has a .257 average in 398 career games with a .319 on-base percentage and a .431 slugging percentage.
“You look back at a few years of his career when he had 13 and 18 home runs,” Zduriencik said. “We were in pursuit of an outfielder who could play all three spots. He can do that.”
Ruggiano will get an opportunity to win a regular spot in right field but more likely projects to play primarily against left-handed pitchers because of his career splits: .508/.390 slugging percentages against lefties/righties.
“I want to be a part of that lineup every day,” he acknowledged, “but I’m here to fill whatever role they want me to fill and help Seattle win some games.”
A platoon would open a spot for James Jones, a left-handed hitter who batted .250 last season as a rookie while stealing 27 bases in 108 games.
Both players could also slot into the No. 2 hole in the lineup between Austin Jackson and Robinson Cano. Manager Lloyd McClendon previously said he’d prefer to shift Dustin Ackley from No. 2 to a lower spot.
“Last year,” Ruggiano said, “I really enjoyed being in the two-hole right in front of (Anthony) Rizzo. I felt like I got really good pitches to hit and and opportunity to set the table for him.”
Tellingly, perhaps, Zduriencik did not rule out a further move to bolster the lineup. The Mariners have shown interest in San Diego outfielder Seth Smith, who could also be paired with Ruggiano in a platoon arrangement.
Talking in general terms, Zduriencik said, “I don’t think there’s any doubt you’d look at that. We’ve had a lot of different discussions. You just don’t know. We have competition right now.
“James and Stefen (Romero) certainly have ability, but there is a degree of inexperience. What Justin brings to the table is a power right-handed hitter. We’ll continue to look. That’s as simple as I can say it.”
Ruggiano spent parts of three seasons at Tampa Bay (2008-11) before a trade sent him to Miami for two years. The Cubs acquired him in a Dec. 12, 2013 deal from the Marlins for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.
In all that time, Ruggiano recalled just two trips to Seattle, and he has only played once at Safeco Field — June 3, 2011 for the Rays, when he went 0-for-3 in a 7-0 loss to Jason Vargas.
Even so, Ruggiano has pleasant memories as he contemplates a return.
“Incredible city,” he recalled. “I know that. We stayed downtown when we visited. I got to go see the markets and get some good coffee. Got a good haircut while I was there.
“And the stadium and the fans…it’s a beautiful stadium.”
Ruggiano also sees Safeco’s more-spacious dimensions as a plus after spending last season squeezed at Wrigley Field’s hitter-friendly confines in Chicago.
“I definitely like a bigger outfield,” he said. “I really enjoyed Marlins Park for that reason. Freedom to run and not thinking there’s a wall in the next couple of steps — a brick wall on the side, like at Wrigley.”