Mariners agree to terms on one-year deal with Wilkerson
SEATTLE -- Brad Wilkerson and the Mariners agreed Thursday to a $3 million, one-year contract, a move that could signal Seattle is finally close to acquiring pitcher Erik Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles.
Wilkerson can play all three outfield positions plus first base, and the Mariners have for weeks discussed trading outfielder Adam Jones to Baltimore along with others for Bedard.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I haven't been following it," Wilkerson said of Seattle's on-and-off push for Bedard to become its staff ace. "I've been following it quite a bit, actually."
Jones, a top prospect, had been slated to be the Mariners' starting right fielder this season, replacing the departed Jose Guillen. Last weekend, the Mariners called him back from the championship series of the Venezuelan Winter League for what Jones reportedly said was a physical with Baltimore that would finalize the trade for Bedard.
Since then, the Orioles have reportedly canceled the physical and Jones has idled. Wilkerson seized the opportunity, choosing a prime chance to start in right field in Seattle over an offer from Boston to be mostly a bench player.
"Well, I think we'll see about that," Wilkerson said of replacing Jones in right field for Seattle's opening day against the Rangers on March 31. "I definitely believe I have an opportunity for that job."
Wilkerson also has the opportunity to make an additional $2 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $50,000 each for 325, 350, 375 and 400; $100,000 each for 425 and 450; and $200,000 each for 475 and each additional 25 through 650.
That's all a tad rich for a backup to Jones but more appropriate for a starting right fielder.
The 30-year-old career .250 hitter with 118 home runs in 6½ seasons with the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals and Texas is coming off two seasons of shoulder and hamstring injuries. But he said he is as healthy now as he was to begin 2005.
He started 19 games in right field, 36 in left, one in center and 68 at first base last season with the Rangers. He spent almost a month, into June, on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring.
"The addition of Brad to our club gives us a number of different options," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. "He is a solid left-handed bat who can play all three outfield positions and first base."
Wilkerson said he has a "more than strong enough" arm to play right field in Seattle, alongside Gold Glove center fielder Ichiro Suzuki. He expects to arrive to spring training days ahead of the reporting date for Mariners' veterans, perhaps as early as Feb. 14, to begin working on digging hits out of the right-field corner and wheeling around for long throws to third base. That's the biggest adjustment he sees from playing left field.
The opportunity to start for Seattle, which hasn't been to the playoffs since 2001 but believes it is on the cusp of the postseason, trumped what Wilkerson called a good offer from the Red Sox, the defending World Series champions.
"In Boston, they were more certain on what they had for me to do," Wilkerson said, meaning a reserve role behind a set lineup.
"I feel this is just a great opportunity to come in here with the chance to win an everyday job," he said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press