The Seattle Mariners added power to one of the weakest lineups in baseball Wednesday, agreeing to a $50 million, four-year contract with free agent first baseman Richie Sexson...

Share story

The Seattle Mariners added power to one of the weakest lineups in baseball Wednesday, agreeing to a $50 million, four-year contract with free agent first baseman Richie Sexson.

“This is first and foremost where I wanted to be,” said Sexson, who is from Brush Prairie, Wash. “In the back of my mind, and for my family, we knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Sexson, a career .271 hitter, said he also considered offers from Baltimore and the New York Yankees.

He’s coming off a frustrating injury-shortened season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hurt his left shoulder on a check-swing and didn’t play after May, batting .233 with nine homers and 23 RBIs.

“That was the worst experience I’ve ever gone through as an athlete,” Sexson said. “Pride takes over, then guilt. It sure helps to have family around you to say it’s not your fault because it sure feels like it is.”

He’s confident his shoulder is ready after extensive physical exams by Mariners doctors. Word leaked this week at the winter meetings that a deal was close, but the agreement was delayed by three days of rigorous tests.

“I just went through a NASA experiment,” Sexson joked.

Despite the injury, his proven power made him an attractive free agent. Sexson, who turns 30 on Dec. 29, hit 45 homers for Milwaukee in 2001 and 2003. He has 200 career homers and posted four 100-RBI seasons.

Sexson is so excited about Seattle that he’s willing to move to left field, if it helps the Mariners win. In his first full season in the majors, with Cleveland in 1999, he made 40 starts in left and 53 at first base.

“If I’m playing in left, that means we’re a pretty good ballclub,” Sexson said. “We’d have a pretty good first baseman.”

Seattle is still negotiating with free agent first baseman Carlos Delgado and third baseman Adrian Beltre, two of the most attractive hitters on the market.

Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln acknowledged that Sexson’s contract represents “a heck of a lot of money.” The deal should counter criticism in recent years that Seattle wouldn’t spend what was required to compete.

“We recognize that to get this team back into the playoffs as quickly as possible, we’re going to have to spend significant amounts of money,” Lincoln said. “We’ve made no secret of that.

“Right now, we’re in the process of spending a lot of money — and we’re not done,” he said.

Seattle has struggled in recent years to score runs. Last year, the Mariners ranked last in the AL in runs (857), RBIs (658) and home runs (136).

“Our primary goal this offseason was to add offense,” general manager Bill Bavasi said. “Richie was one of the premier free agents available on the market and we are extremely pleased to be able to add him to our club.”

Another reason for choosing Seattle, Sexson said, is being reunited with Mike Hargrove, the new manager who was with Sexson in Cleveland (1997-2000). Sexson also played with Milwaukee from 2000-03.

“Great manager,” Sexson said. “He’s a guy a really look up to.”

He gets a $6 million signing bonus, $4.5 million next season, $11.5 million in 2006 and $14 million in each of the final two seasons.

“Anytime you add a hitter with numbers like Richie has produced, it helps to legitimize your lineup,” Hargrove said. “Richie is a proven middle-of-the-order hitter and one of the better power and production hitters of the last four years.”