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Originally published Thursday, December 14, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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M's deal for Nationals' Vidro

It was only by playing every day that new Mariners designated hitter Jose Vidro figured he could get his bat scorching again the way folks...

Seattle Times staff reporter

It was only by playing every day that new Mariners designated hitter Jose Vidro figured he could get his bat scorching again the way folks remembered it.

Trouble is, the grind of daily action at second base had landed the career .301 hitter for the Washington Nationals on the disabled list too many times. Enter the Mariners, who spent this week persuading Vidro to remove them from his no-trade list by offering him the chance to shed his infield duties and become their full-time DH.

Once Vidro agreed and had a vesting option year added to his contract, the Mariners shook hands with Washington on a trade that brings Vidro to Seattle in exchange for outfielder Chris Snelling and relief pitcher Emiliano Fruto. The Mariners are picking up $12 million of the $16 million owed Vidro through 2008 in addition to giving him the vesting option for 2009.

"By me becoming the DH, it will give me the chance to focus exclusively on my hitting and not have to worry about all of that other stuff," Vidro, 32, told The Times in a telephone interview Wednesday night from his home in Puerto Rico.

"Playing every day is something I really want to get back to doing. It was tough for me the past couple of seasons. It was hard to find any rhythm at the plate when you aren't out there all the time."

This is bound to be another hotly debated move in what's becoming a winter filled with them for Seattle fans who had expected the team to load up on front-end pitching. Instead, the two pitching moves have been for mid-rotation starters Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez, while the team now sheds more youth to bring Vidro into an offense that last week added Nationals free-agent right fielder Jose Guillen.

Vidro and Guillen, if healthy, appear to give the team a significant offensive upgrade. But it's the health issues for a pair of decade-old bats that remain question marks.

Three-time all-star Vidro has been plagued by knee and hamstring problems for years. The deal won't go through until he completes a physical, which he didn't expect to take place until Friday.

"I really don't think my health will be an issue anymore," Vidro said. "It's going to be very different not being out there in the field all the time."

Vidro said he spoke to both Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi and manager Mike Hargrove to clarify what his exact role will be. There was also a conversation with fellow Puerto Rico resident Joel Pineiro last Friday, only a few days before the Mariners declined to tender the pitcher a contract.

"They all told me that Seattle is a great place to play and live," Vidro said. "They told me I'm really going to enjoy my time away from the ballpark, and that's part of what I was looking at."

Besides being the DH, Vidro said there will be occasions "maybe once a week" to give another player a rest at first, third or second base.

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"But I'm coming here to be the DH," he said. "Not to play second base. I can't do that every day anymore."

Vidro appeared in only 126 games last season — 107 at second base — and hasn't played more than that since 2003. He hit .289 with seven homers and 47 RBI last season, while his slugging percentage dipped to .395 — the lowest of his career since he became a full-time player in 1999.

At his healthiest, Vidro was a serious offensive threat for a Nationals franchise he has spent his entire career with, in Montreal and Washington. His career-best year came in 2000, when he hit .330 with 24 home runs, 97 RBI and also added 51 doubles and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .919.

But even his best numbers don't rival those of the AL's best DH candidates. The only time he's topped 20 homers, or slugged better than .500, came during that stellar 2000 campaign.

Vidro has also never had a 100-RBI season, though that was partly a result of batting second in the order through much of his career.

To land Vidro, the Mariners finally gave up on the injury-plagued Snelling, 25, an Australian who showed flashes of promise when healthy but has suffered from knee injuries the past five years. Snelling's future in Seattle seemed in doubt after last week's addition of Guillen left him staring at the possibility of beginning next year in Class AAA or as a DH platoon partner with Ben Broussard.

Rookie reliever Fruto, 22, a native of Colombia, went 2-2 with a 5.50 earned-run average in 23 outings last season and impressed with some longer stints in September. But this trade is all about the money for the Nationals, who have been offloading payroll to rebuild their cellar-dwelling squad.

The arrival of Vidro could also spell the end of Broussard's brief tenure in Seattle. Broussard was tendered a contract by the team just before Tuesday's deadline, but is now a man without a role and has been the subject of multiple trade rumors.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com

Jose Vidro
Born: Aug. 27, 1974. Birthplace: Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Height: 5-feet-11. Weight: 195 pounds. Bats: Switch. Throws: Right.
Year Team AB 2B HR RBI AVG
1997 Expos 169 12 2 17 .249
1998 Expos 205 12 0 18 .220
1999 Expos 494 45 12 59 .304
2000 Expos 606 51 24 97 .330
2001 Expos 486 34 15 59 .319
2002 Expos 604 43 19 96 .315
2003 Expos 509 36 15 65 .310
2004 Expos 412 24 14 60 .294
2005 Nationals 309 21 7 32 .275
2006 Nationals 463 26 7 47 .289
Totals 4257 304 115 550 .301

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