Ok, we just got out of a brief meeting Jack Zduriencik's sweet suite here at the Bellagio. (Needless to say, his room has a much better view than mine.
The headline pretty much says it all. Zduriencik didn't rule out making a pitch to resign Raul, but at this point, I don't see it happening. He's 36. Yes, his production was good and I think he could replicate it this season, but he wants more than one season. Will he get it from a team, oh yes, he'll get a three-year deal easily. Teams like him and for good reason. He works his ass off in the offseason, during spring training and during the season. He knows he doesn't have as much talent as other players so he tries to outwork them. He's turned himself into a productive player.
Here's my story for the paper...
LAS VEGAS - As expected Raul Ibanez declined the Mariners offer for salary arbitration. Ibanez's agents notified Major League Baseball after Sunday's 9 p.m. deadline that he will apply for free agency. MLB officials then notified the Mariners.
It wasn't much of a surprise to those familiar with the situation, including Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik.
"I'm not surprised that he turned it down," Zduriencik said after hearing the news. "It's his right to do it as a player. Had he said yes to arbitration, we would've been happy to have him back."
Ibanez was probably the Mariners most consistent offensive producer last season, hitting .293 with 23 home runs 110 RBI.
At the end of last season, Ibanez was amenable to resigning with the Mariners, but was looking for a multi-year deal to provide some security. Zduriencik didn't rule out the possibility of the Mariners coming back at Ibanez with another contract offer.
"It's possible," he said. "I think we can talk. It certainly leaves the door open."
However, Zduriencik is walking a fine line of offering a multi-year deal to a player that will turn 37 in June with a team that will largely be in rebuilding mode.
Ibanez also hinted toward a desire to play for a playoff contending team. The Mariners aren't necessarily in that category.
Teams like the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and New York Yankees have all shown some interest in Ibanez and could give him the multi-year commitment and possibility of winning that he craves.
Under MLB rules, if Ibanez were to sign with another team, the Mariners would be awarded two compensatory draft picks because Ibanez was classified as a Type A free agent.