Trade for Vidro becomes official
Mariners plan to use newcomer as designated hitter
SEATTLE -- Seattle might well have been one of the teams on Jose Vidro's no-trade list, but it sure didn't take much to convince the veteran switch-hitter to agree to a trade to the Mariners.
Sure, Vidro had favorable memories from his previous two trips to Safeco Field with the Montreal Expos during Interleague Play, like the fan support the Mariners received, and, of course, the lure of the city itself.
But when it came time to agree to a trade with Seattle, all the 32-year-old former All-Star had to do was sit down with his family and decide what really mattered to him the most.
"I saw a lot of possibilities here. I look at the roster this year, with the lineup they have, it looks very interesting," Vidro said. "I saw they were close to signing a couple of pitchers. I would like to be on a competitive team -- one that's not trying to rebuild. That was one of the things that I found attractive."
Nearly two weeks after they agreed in principle to the trade, the Mariners and Nationals completed a deal Monday that saw Vidro leave the only organization he's ever known to join Seattle along with cash considerations.
In return from the Mariners, the Nationals receive outfielder Chris Snelling and reliever Emiliano Fruto.
"Jose is a professional hitter," Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "We feel we can add him to our batting order anywhere from the second to the sixth spot and he will add production to our lineup. With the addition of Vidro and Jose Guillen to our returning players, I think we are a much stronger offensive team."
Vidro -- expected to be Seattle's full-time designated hitter in 2007 -- passed a physical in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, which cleared the way for a deal that had been agreed to in Orlando during the Winter Meetings nearly two weeks ago.
Seattle will assume $12 million of the $16 million due in the final two years on Vidro's contract. Vidro will earn $7.5 million in 2007 and $8.5 million in 2008. He had a 2009 vesting option added to his contract as part of the deal. If Vidro's option doesn't become guaranteed, he would receive a $500,000 payment.
A career .301 hitter, Vidro appeared in 125 games with Washington last season, hitting .289 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs. Vidro's .395 slugging percentage was his worst since becoming a full-time player in 1999.
He missed more than a month with a left hamstring injury in 2006. When he returned from the disabled list, his range at second base wasn't the same and he ended up playing first base.
Vidro appeared in only 87 games for the Nationals in 2005 because of injuries to his right knee, ankle and quadriceps muscle.
"I'm very positive my knee problems are in the past," Vidro said in a conference call with reporters from his home in Puerto Rico. "Now that I'm in the DH [role], I have a lot of time to work on my legs. Those injuries are in the past."
While Vidro will see time as a backup to Adrian Beltre at third base and Jose Lopez at second base, according to Bavasi, he likely won't see the field too often. Vidro said he is fine with that.
"I'm still young; I can still play in the field," he said. "It was explained by the Mariners that they needed my bat and needed it bad. I like challenges. I think I've just got to get used to it."
Vidro's bat has certainly been his calling card since breaking into the Major Leagues with the Expos in 1997. Vidro had five consecutive seasons where he collected more than 150 hits and in 2000 he hit a career-high 24 home runs. He had over 30 doubles five times in his career.
But his slugging percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) have been on the decline in each of the previous four seasons.
Washington general manager Jim Bowden told reporters on Monday that a move to the American League will benefit Vidro.
"Playing in the American League will lengthen his career," Bowden said. "He's capable of hitting .300 this year and next year. He still has the ability to hit 15 home runs."
Bavasi is convinced Vidro won't experience the similar type of struggles Beltre and Richie Sexson did after coming to the American League after spending most or all of their careers in the National League.
"We always take that into account," Bavasi said. "Probably the guys we've had the most concern with were Beltre and Sexson, [who] are bigger-swinging guys. [Vidro's] more consistent with a short swing. He doesn't strike out a lot. We feel good about this guy's ability as a pure hitter, not a power hitter."
Bavasi said that Vidro is the right kind of hitter to help extend innings for the Mariners, something that was a big problem in 2006 when they were shut out a Major League-high 15 times.
"We have some power in right [Guillen], some power in left [Raul Ibanez], power on the corners in the infield [Beltre, Sexson] and behind the plate [Kenji Johjima]. But we strike out a lot. We knew going in we needed some guys, at least one guy, who was a contract guy to keep innings going."
The Mariners would certainly hope to get more production from Vidro at the designated hitter position than they got from the three players they mostly used there last season -- Ben Broussard, Eduardo Perez and Carl Everett.
Everett was Seattle's Opening Day designated hitter but hit just .227 with 11 home runs and was designated for assignment in July.
The duo of Perez and Broussard -- obtained in separate deals from the Indians -- didn't fare well either. Perez hit .195 in 43 games with one home run while Broussard hit .238 with eight home runs.
Perez was not offered salary arbirtration early this month, while Broussard was tendered a contract offer for next season. With the addition of Vidro, the Mariners could be looking to deal Broussard.
In order to obtain Vidro, Seattle had to part ways with two promising players in Snelling and Fruto. Snelling, 25, played in a combined 59 games and hit .237 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in three partial seasons with the Mariners. Fruto, 22, pitched in 22 games for the Mariners and had a 5.50 ERA.
Bavasi dreaded making the phone call to Snelling on Monday to inform the Australian of the deal. Snelling, a fan favorite, has suffered through numerous injuries in his career. He will get a chance to compete for the Nationals' left-field job in Spring Training.
"He's got a bright career in front of him -- there's guys you end up liking and we like him," Bavasi said. "This guy has a special place with everyone here. But we're getting a darn, good hitter back ... someone we need right now."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.