Seattle - The Seattle Mariners and infielder Brendan Ryan, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals this winter, avoided arbitration today by agreeing to a two-year contract worth a reported $2.75 million.
The move likely finalizes the starting infield for the 2011 season – with general manager Jack Zduriencik officially acknowledging what had been assumed since Jose Lopez was traded to Colorado.
Chone Figgins will move from second base to third, where he had far more success with the Los Angeles Angels. A career .287 hitter, the switch-hitting Figgins batted .259 last year and was only average at second base.
With Figgins at third, Justin Smoak at first base, Ryan at second and Jack Wilson – if healthy – at shortstop, the Mariners’ infield defense should be improved over last year.
At 28, Ryan is almost certainly the starting second baseman this season, and the shortstop of the future with Wilson in the final year of his deal and struggling to stay healthy.
Ryan made $425,000 last season with the Cardinals, batting just .223 in 139 games following wrist surgery, but hit .292 in 2009 and has a career batting average of .259. He’ll now make $1 million this season, $1.75 million in 2012.
With no shortstop close to being big-league ready in the Seattle farm system, Ryan’s contract gives the Mariners options – depth at a position that likely will need it.
Jack and Josh Wilson, along with Ryan, give the Mariners three viable defenders at the position, with Ryan perhaps having the most upside offensively.
The signing leaves only three Mariners arbitration-eligible – pitchers David Aardsma, Brandon League and Jason Vargas.