Bloomquist excited to return to where career began
Drafted by Mariners in 1999, utility man signs two-year, $5.8 million contract
SEATTLE -- Veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist, who was drafted and played seven years with the Mariners at the beginning of his career, returned to his roots Thursday as Seattle officially announced his signing of a two-year deal.
Word of the agreement emerged Monday, but Bloomquist had to complete a physical exam before finalizing a contract that will pay him $5.8 million over the next two seasons.
"From my personal standpoint, this has been a very exciting week for me and my family," Bloomquist said. "It's an opportunity to go back and play where it all began in Seattle for me as a professional, to sign back with the organization that believed in me out of high school and college and now as a free agent. They came after me again and I couldn't be more flattered or excited to go back and play at home."
Bloomquist, 36, played for Seattle from 2002-08 after being drafted in the third round in 1999 out of Arizona State. He is a native of the Northwest, having grown up in Port Orchard, Wash., and attended South Kitsap High School.
While Bloomquist isn't the big-name acquisition Seattle fans are clamoring for, he figures to fill a versatile role for new manager Lloyd McClendon as one of baseball's noted "super utility" players, having played every position except catcher during his 12 seasons in the Majors.
Bloomquist is the first acquisition this offseason for general manager Jack Zduriencik, but he won't be the last as the Mariners have considerable available payroll and a desire to add some veterans to their youthful mix.
"From talking to Jack, he still has some stuff up his sleeve that is going to make us a better team," Bloomquist said. "With the moves in the future that still have to be made and a one-two punch at the top of the rotation [with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma], if we get going the right direction, we could make some good things happen."
Bloomquist spent the last three years with the D-backs, where he hit .289 in 225 games. He put up a .317/.360/.367 slash line last season in 139 at-bats while playing just 48 games due to two lengthy disabled-list stints with a strained oblique and a broken left hand, but says he's 100-percent healthy now.
"I took a 94-mph fastball to the hand and broke some bones," Bloomquist said. "I did miss some time early with the oblique strain, but for me, injuries are going to happen. I've always tried to get between the lines and give it 100 percent. Anything less, you're doing a disgrace to the uniform. Along with that comes injuries, but I feel great now."
Bloomquist hit .302/.325/.398 in 324 at-bats in 80 games in 2012, and he is a career .271 hitter with a .320 on-base percentage with 17 home runs and 207 RBIs in 973 games. He had some frustration early in his career over not being an everyday player, but said he's come to terms with that role after getting more of an opportunity in his post-Seattle stints in Kansas City and Arizona.
"When you break into the Majors Leagues, I was just so gung-ho on wanting to play, wanting to play," Bloomquist said. "I was more of a utility player then, and this go-round, I'll have pretty much the same role. But I've more embraced that as far as accepting what I'm capable of doing and not doing.
"The Mariners are not signing me for my power numbers. They're signing me for what I do between the lines, to get on base and help out from a versatility standpoint."
Bloomquist has played 329 games in the outfield, 282 at shortstop, 132 at third base, 123 at second base and 37 at first base in his career.
The Mariners return rookies Brad Miller at shortstop and Nick Franklin at second base, and Bloomquist is capable of helping out at both those positions, as well as the outfield. Seattle has just three outfielders -- Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte -- under contract from last year's final roster.
Bloomquist said only Hernandez remains from the club he left when signing with the Royals as a free agent in 2009. But he talked to Raul Ibanez and last year's hitting coach Dave Hansen and was told it was a perfect situation for him, particularly on a two-year deal where he'll be able to establish himself as a veteran leader.
"This is a very young and talented team," Bloomquist said. "Hopefully the fact I'm a little older and have been around, I can establish myself as more of a leader and help point out things I've learned in the game. On a one-year deal, you're more worried about where you're going to be the next year. For me, I have no hidden agenda, just a couple years to make things happen."