Aurilia gets one year at $3.15M

Updated: January 9, 2004, 3:38 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners are trying to boost their offense, and Rich Aurilia is confident he can help.

The Mariners agreed to a $3.15 million, one-year contract Thursday with the free-agent shortstop, then traded Carlos Guillen to the Detroit Tigers for Ramon Santiago and minor league shortstop Juan Gonzalez.

"Seattle was always my choice of the teams that were interested," Aurilia said. "I knew they had an immediate chance to win. A one-year deal should be added incentive, get me working really hard so I can get an extension."

Aurilia can make an additional $350,000 in performance bonuses.

The 32-year-old Aurilia has spent eight seasons with the San Francisco Giants, hitting .277 last season despite a problem with the tear duct in his left eye that made it difficult to wear contact lenses.

His best year was 2001, when he hit .324 with 37 home runs and 97 RBIs. He should provide more punch for a team that hit .271 last season and slumped at the plate late in the season.

Aurilia has a career hitting average of .278 and a career fielding average of .972. After his "dry eye" problem was corrected near midseason, Aurilia hit .312 in the second half.

"I had some injury problems, just some weird things that kept me out of the lineup and affected me offensively," he said. "I look forward to going out and re-establishing myself as one of the top offensive shortstops in baseball."

The acquisition gives Seattle an overhauled left side for 2004. The Mariners also added free agents Scott Spiezio at third base and Raul Ibanez in left field, moving Randy Winn to center field.

The 28-year-old Guillen hit .276 in 109 games last season, splitting time at shortstop and third base. He nearly was traded last month but a deal with the Indians for shortstop Omar Vizquel couldn't be completed.

The Tigers were among teams vying for Aurilia, but the situation worked out well for president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.

"We're very happy because we've been trying to add a shortstop throughout the winter," he said. "Now our double-play combination is Carlos Guillen and Fernando Vina, and we feel encouraged about that."

Guillen has been slowed by minor injuries during his five years in the majors. He saw action in only nine games last July because of an inflamed pelvis and did a rehabilitation assignment in the minors.

During the winter meetings, the Mariners signed Guillen to a one-year $2.5 million contract that included up to $900,000 in performance bonuses. He had been eligible for salary arbitration.

Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi has said over the past month the team would consider anything to boost its offense, so trading Guillen doesn't come as a huge surprise.

On the other hand, Bavasi emphasized there were no concerns about bringing Guillen back.

"When we signed Carlos, it was with the understanding he was a starting shortstop in the major leagues," Bavasi said. "It's not like we signed Rich to run Carlos off."

In another move, Seattle agreed to a minor league contract with catcher Pat Borders, who has spent the past three seasons in the Mariners system.

Borders, who turns 41 in May, was the only Seattle free agent who was offered salary arbitration, but he rejected it. He would get a $500,000, one-year contract if he is added to the 40-man roster.

Dombrowski acknowledged reports indicating the Tigers are vying to sign free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez. He declined to say whether Detroit was interested in signing Rodriguez.

"You always want to get better, but that has not been our focus," he said. "Our focus has been at shortstop. Now that we have acquired one, we will look for other ways to improve our club."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press