SEATTLE – After shortstop Jack Wilson arrived in Seattle in a trade last summer, it didn't take long for him to know he wanted to stay.
"About an hour, hour and a half," Wilson said by telephone with a chuckle from his home in Southern California on Friday.
Now he has 10 million more reasons to love Seattle.
The 31-year-old defensive whiz signed a $10 million, two-year contract with the Mariners. According to terms obtained by The Associated Press, Wilson gets $5 million in each of the next two seasons and can earn $250,000 a year in performance bonuses: $50,000 for 450 plate appearances, and $100,000 each for 500 and 550 plate appearances.
Seattle had an $8.4 million option with a $600,000 buyout under the contract Wilson had agreed to with the Pirates before the 2006 season.
The Mariners had inherited that contract from Pittsburgh on July 29, when they traded for the 31-year-old Wilson plus pitcher Ian Snell, for infielder Ronny Cedeno, catcher Jeff Clement and three minor league pitchers.
"I'm really, really excited to be back in Seattle. It's such a great chance to win and compete," Wilson said, remembering his 8 1/2 losing seasons with the Pirates.
He then recited the superstars he still has as teammates, such as newly re-signed Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik knew he wanted Wilson as a fixture in Seattle even before Wilson got to town. Zduriencik had seen the "pesky" shortstop torment his old Milwaukee Brewers with clutch hits and wondrous defense when both were in the NL Central before last season.
"There isn't anyone in baseball who would tell you they wouldn't want to have that position solidified with one of the premier defensive players in the game," Zduriencik said.
A sore hamstring first injured on a wet field in Pittsburgh before the trade preceded the jolt of being traded from the city in which Wilson and his family felt ingrained. A right heel bruised while stomping on first base while trying to beat out an infield grounder soon after he joined the Mariners combined with the hamstring to limit Wilson to 31 games for Seattle over the last half of 2009. He hit .224 with one home run.
"I was so ready for the year to get over," Wilson said. "The only bright spot was getting traded over to Seattle."
Though he was disappointed in his year, the Mariners were not. They felt better than when they had lackadaisical Yuniesky Betancourt anchoring the infield's key spot earlier last season, and for shaky seasons before that.
Seattle eventually traded Betancourt to Kansas City a few weeks before it acquired Wilson.
Now it has at least two of their infield spots secured for next season. Second baseman Jose Lopez, the team's RBI leader with a career-high 96, remains under contract, though he is the subject of trade rumors with his market value high.
Two-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre is expected to leave soon in free agency. First baseman Russell Branyan also could become a free agent, though the Mariners hope to re-sign him. The slugger said last month he'd love to retire as a Mariner.
Wilson can't say that, not with a two-year contract. But he's fulfilling Zduriencik's mission to rebuild the rising Mariners with pitching and defense first.
"When we acquired Jack, one of the things we (expected) was that he'd be a part of this organization as we move forward," Seattle's GM said. "I am just extremely happy he'll be here for the next couple of years."
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.
Source: By GREGG BELL, AP Sports Writer