DH to rejoin Seattle for 18th season

Updated: November 4, 2003, 7:41 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Designated hitter Edgar Martinez, one of the biggest stars ever to grace the Seattle sports scene, will rejoin the Mariners for the 2004 season, his 18th in the majors.

Martinez, who turns 41 in January, agreed Tuesday to a $3 million, one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, a deal that allows him to earn an additional $4 million based on plate appearances.

Cashman? Permission denied
The Mariners, who remain in the market for a general manager, called a Yankees official last week seeking George Steinbrenner's approval to interview Brian Cashman.

Steinbrenner said no, a team source told the New York Daily News.

According to the newspaper, Cashman and other Yankees executives are not allowed to talk to the media per Steinbrenner's orders. Several team sources told the Daily News recently that Cashman's job is safe and he'll supposedly be able to at least serve out the three-year, $3 million deal he signed after the 2001 season.

The Mariners are looking for a successor to Pat Gillick, who agreed in September to step aside. The team also has been denied permission by the Oakland A's to speak to GM Billy Beane. The Mariners also are thought to be interested in Dan Jennings, the Marlins' director of player personnel. Jennings is a former Seattle scout.
-- ESPN.com news services

It's unclear if Martinez's 18th major league season will be the last for the designated hitter.

"I'm not going to talk about that," he said, laughing. "This last year, we've had a lot to say about that. It's something I'm going to try to avoid this year. I'm going to play, play to help the team win and have some fun."

The two-time AL batting champion had a $4 million base salary this year and earned $3.5 million in performance bonuses. He faced a Sunday deadline to file for free agency.

But Martinez wants to finish his career with the Mariners, the only organization he's played for.

"I'm very glad everything worked out and I'm coming back for another year," he said. "I think if we didn't reach an agreement, the chances that I'd stay home were a lot greater than I'd play for another team."

Martinez has several franchise records, including career batting average (.315), games (1,914), hits (2,119), extra-base hits (803), doubles (491), RBIs (1,198), walks (1,225) and runs (1,174).

He was selected to his seventh AL All-Star team last season and won his fourth Silver Slugger award after hitting .294 with 24 homers, 98 RBIs and 25 doubles in 145 games.

Martinez feels healthy enough to keep going. He started working out one week after the Mariners finished with 93 wins, missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

"I feel I'm in good shape and ready to go again. I'm very excited," he said.

Assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas, who negotiated the deal, said the interest in having Martinez back was mutual. Age was a concern, but the Mariners still believe in the venerable slugger.

"Number one was performance," Pelekoudas said. "He still contributes on the field and in the clubhouse. He has the respect of not only the Latin players but all the players on our club and throughout baseball."

Martinez played the closing months last season with a broken big toe on his left foot. Though he hobbled down the base paths, his on-base percentage of .406 ranked fourth in the AL.

With Gary Payton traded out of town by the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics last spring, there's no other athlete with a popularity or presence in Seattle as large as Martinez, one more reason the Mariners wanted him back.

"He's up there with the Kirby Pucketts, Tony Gwynns and the like," Pelekoudas said.

Martinez said another factor in his decision was watching the playoffs on television instead of suiting up. He believes the organization is committed to making another run at the postseason.

He described his unfulfilled World Series ambitions and recalled the frenzy from 1995, when his two-RBI double in the 11th inning of Game 5 eliminated the Yankees in the ALDS at the Kingdome.

"I want to have a taste of that again," Martinez said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press