Seattle has signed Josh Bard to a minor-league contract for the second straight offseason.
Last year he spent most of the first half at Triple-A before joining the Mariners for good in early July and hitting .214 with a .634 OPS in 39 games while backing up Adam Moore.
This time around he’ll compete with Moore for the job backing up Miguel Olivo, who the Mariners signed to a two-year, $7 million contract last month.
Bard has played for five teams in parts of nine seasons in the majors, and new Mariners manager Eric Wedge is familiar with him from their time together in Cleveland from 2003 to 2005.
UPDATE: According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, the Mariners and Brendan Ryan have not officially agreed to a new contract, though a deal is believed to be close.
3:45 PM: Three weeks after acquiring Brendan Ryan from the Cardinals for pitching prospect Maikel Cleto the Mariners have avoided arbitration with the infielder by agreeing to a two-year, $2.75 million deal, according to the Associated Press.
Ryan will reportedly earn $1 million this season and $1.75 million in 2012.
He fell out of favor in St. Louis last season by hitting just .223 with a measly .573 OPS and clashing with manager Tony LaRussa, but Ryan is among the elite defensive middle infielders in all of baseball and the Mariners will hope his hitting can bounce back to his .279/.333/.373 line prior to 2010.
Seattle has been shopping closer David Aardsma since the middle of last season and recent reports suggested they were looking for “an impact bat” in exchange for the 29-year-old right-hander, but today’s announcement that he needs surgery to repair a torn hip labrum ruins those plans.
Aardsma is scheduled to go under the knife Monday and could be recovered by the end of spring training, but the surgery rules out a trade before then and most teams will likely want to see him in action for a while prior to reconsidering a deal.
It’ll be interesting to see if the injury impacts Aardsma’s arbitration case, as he earned $2.75 million in 2010 would have been in line for a raise to at least $4 million after saving 31 games with a 3.44 ERA. The surgery may increase the chances that the two sides will settle before a hearing.
Responding to speculation that Colorado is interested in Seattle closer David Aardsma, Thomas Harding of MLB.com writes that “multiple sources with knowledge of both teams told MLB.com that the Mariners are in search of an impact bat and there isn’t a fit with the Rockies.”
Of course, the definition of “an impact bat” probably varies quite a bit. My personal definition tends to mean something along the lines of a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter, and there’s basically zero chance of any team trading the Mariners someone like that for Aardsma.
Seattle shopped him prior to the trading deadline in July and didn’t find an acceptable deal, and with this offseason’s abundance of quality free agent relievers it seems unlikely that anyone is going to overpay for Aardsma this time around.
With that said, he’d be a worthwhile target for teams scared of handing out three-year deals to relievers. Aardsma is under team control through 2012 as an arbitration eligible player and figures to earn around $4 million in 2011.
His control is spotty, but Aardsma has 69 saves with a 2.90 ERA, .193 opponents’ batting average, and 129 strikeouts in 121 innings over the past two seasons. If the Mariners’ definition of “an impact bat” really just means “a useful bat” then quite a few teams should be interested.