Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Friday, November 2, 2007
Mariners decline contract options on RF Guillen, reliever Reitsma

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners declined their contract options for 2008 on right fielder Jose Guillen and oft-injured reliever Chris Reitsma.

Guillen could still be back. He wants a multiyear contract and not the one-year, $9 million deal he would get if he exercises his part of the mutual option with Seattle for next season.

If Guillen decides not to exercise his part of the option, he won't get a $500,000 buyout. He must decide within five days.

"Declining the options on Jose and Chris gives us more flexibility as we plan our 2008 roster," general manager Bill Bavasi said while announcing the decision hours before a league deadline to do so Friday night.

"In Jose's case, this puts the ball in his court. He can choose to exercise his option with us, or to go to free agency.

"With both players, if it becomes apparent that they're a good fit for us in 2008, we can still negotiate with them as free agents."

Guillen, 31, batted .290 with 23 home runs and 99 RBIs in 153 games in 2007. He was also a fiery, motivated presence inside a clubhouse that for years had lacked one. But he rarely, if ever, showed the disruptive side that caused him to be suspended by two of his eight previous teams -- Cincinnati and Anaheim -- in the eight seasons before he arrived in Seattle.

"I don't know where all that trouble came from. He wasn't trouble here," manager John McLaren said.

Guillen has said he wants the Mariners to be his final team, and that this past season he finally found a second home away from his native Dominican Republic.

"They know my heart's here," Guillen said Sept. 30, after the final game of the season.

McLaren flattered Guillen by having him replaced to a huge ovation from the home crowd after Guillen had already taken the field for the final inning. Guillen called it one of the best moments of his checkered career, saying "it can't get any better than that."

"I'm going to give them all the chances in the world to sign me," he said of the Mariners that day. "They are going to have to make a choice."

Seattle's outfield is crowded.

The Mariners want to give Adam Jones a full-time spot in their outfield next season, after proving himself at Triple-A Tacoma. They re-signed All-Star and Gold Glove winner Ichiro Suzuki to play center field for five more years and $90 million this past summer.

Returning left fielder Raul Ibanez is also under contract for 2008, but he was limited by shoulder and leg injuries for the first half of this past season and turns 36 next season.

Seattle could put Jones in left field, offer Guillen a deal to stay in right and move Ibanez to designated hitter -- though they already have Jose Vidro signed through next season to do that job.

Reitsma likely will not return after three stints on the disabled list last season. The 29-year-old right-hander had his fifth elbow surgery -- and second in just over a year -- over the summer to remove scar tissue and a small section of the elbow that had been causing pain.

He becomes a free agent after going 0-2 with a 7.61 ERA in 26 games.