Raul Ibanez was one of the players deemed too rich for the Yankees' blood last offseason. They dragged their feet making him an offer and he opted to take one that Seattle made him instead. According to a new report from The Post, the Yanks might be looking to right that previous wrong this offseason:
"The Post has also learned the Yankees have an interest in bringing back the popular and productive Raul Ibanez to be the DH against right-handed pitching."
The Yankees love having that lefty DH role filled and on paper Ibanez would be an ideal candidate for the job. He hit .242/.306/.487 (.344 wOBA) with 29 HR in 496 PA for the Mariners last year, an across-the-board improvement from the .325 wOBA/19 HR season he had for the Bombers in 2012. He can also still fake it in the outfield if needed and his splits against R/L pitchers in 2013 were almost identical.
"But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely."
"A legend, Mr. Ibanez."
And apparently that's exactly what Raul Ibanez did this past season. A year after the Yankees had to fight off nobody to sign him before Spring Training, Ibanez now finds himself being courted by the Texas Rangers in addition to the Yankees for his services as a lefty power platoon bat with the biggest grapefruits this side of Vince McMahon.
Props to Brien Jackson and the crew at IIATMS for being the only site in the blogosphere that I saw that covered this today, and yeah, I totally copycatted my idea to write about this from them. Deal with it. But as far as Ibanez and the Yanks go, there hasn't been a whole lot of talk since the initial "interest" phase earlier in the offseason. The Yankees could use another right-handed bat more than a left one, but it would be fun to have Ibanez back on the bench in 2013. If it turns out that last October was the final time we got to see Ra's al Ul in a Yankee uniform, we'll always have the memories...
According to Ken Davidoff, the Yankees have progressed from the "preliminary discussions" portion of their offseason courting process to the "significant interest" stage with respect to re-signing Raul Ibanez. Ibanez hit .240/.308/.453 last season, and punctuated his first season in pinstripes with some of the most dramatic home runs in a long time. His first-ballot election into the "True Yankee" club notwithstanding, Ibanez would be best as the DH-only bench piece he was supposed to be this season. If the Yankees are interested in him being any more than that, then actively pursuing him this early in the offseason is probably a mistake.
(Who will take home the certificates in the last month?)
After a very blah August that saw them lose most of their division lead and set them up for a competitive and pressure-packed final regular season stretch run, the Yankees rebounded nicely in September to overcome the undesirable situation they had created for themselves. They got healthier, with CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, and Mark Teixeira returning from injuries, and started to fix some of the problems that plagued them over the summer in what ended up being a 20-11 final month plus of the year and ended with another division championship. After the jump, check out the AB4AR choices for best performers and moments of the last month.
(Doesn't look like a positive reaction to that AB. Courtesy of Getty Images)
It's no secret that Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez have been complete dog mess at the plate for a while now. It should also come as no surprise that they've done a slow descent into below replacement-level production territory given how much more they've had to play this year because of injuries. Jones' 264 total plate appearances are already more than he had last year, and Ibanez's 385 PA are much more than the Yankees envisioned him getting after seeing how poorly he produced over the course of 500+ the year before. This is the risk you take when you fill your bench with old, limited players and it's finally coming back around to bite the Yankees at the most critical of times. The question now becomes what do they do with them moving forward?
(Dude looks tired to me... Courtesy of Getty Images)
For someone who didn't come in with a lot of fanfare or expectations after being signed, Raul Ibanez has been an incredibly important piece of the Yankee lineup this year. I know that after watching him flail his way through ST and deliver a classic.gif-worthy defensive botch almost immediately after taking a spot in the outfield, I had already started to countdown to the eventual "Raul Ibanez has been DFA'd" story in my head. But he started to swing the bat OK and hit for some power early in the season, and with Brett Gardner's continued injury setbacks keeping the lineup flexibility limited, Ibanez has proven to be an incredibly valuable resource to have. He's provided pop when the lineup needed it and his overall defense has been much better than expected.
June has been a pretty rough month for Raul, though. After yesterday's game, he's hitting .177/.261/.290 for the month in 69 plate appearances, good for a .244 wOBA and a 45 wRC+. His season batting line had dipped down below the .240/.300 BA/OBP barrier before he used yesterday's at-bats to get himself back up to exactly .240 and .300, and I can't help but wonder if all this time in the outfield covering for the loss of Gardner is starting to catch up with him.
The Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones DH platoon was supposed to be the Yankees' cheap filling of the hole left in their lineup after Jesus Montero was traded away. Brett Gardner's elbow injury and delayed comeback from the DL has thrown a bit of a wrench into those plans, and both players have been forced into more OF duty than the Yankees anticipated (especially Ibanez) while the DH spot in the lineup has become a revolving door. Even with the loss of roster flexibility created by the Gardner injury, there's really no reason to get away from the L/R platoon plans for Ibanez and Jones, especially with a manager like Joe Girardi who loves to play the matchup game. Lately, though, it seems as though Joe has gotten away from that tactic, particularly in late-game situations, which is puzzling considering that Ibanez and Jones were signed to fill those exact roles.
As important as it is for the Yankees to keep their key veteran players healthy this season, and as much as I want to see guys like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez get regular rest to avoid wear and tear and trips to the DL, I was a little surprised to see Eduardo Nunez starting at shortstop in the second game of the season while Jeter got a DH day on Saturday. I was even more surprised to see Raul Ibanez in the lineup in right field Sunday while Nick Swisher got a DH day. Seeing as how both Jeter and Swish are coming off of Spring Training injuries, it's perfectly understandable that Joe would want to err on the side of caution early in the season and give them a day off from the field. That being said, I would be lying if I said I wasn't against the idea of Ibanez getting regular time in the field this season at the expense of healthy, better defensive options. In fact, given the showing he had in the field in his first game, I'd go as far to say that Ibanez should never be playing in the outfield.
With Nunez, there really isn't much the Yankees can do as far as finding a better utility IF/OF option. As he showed on Saturday, he's more than capable of turning the most routine defensive play into an adventure, but we've already known this about him for some time now and when you factor in all the good things he does bring to the table, it helps a bit to balance out what he takes away defensively. When you consider that Nunez's issues in the field seem to be rooted more in focus and mechanics rather than physical ability, it does leave room for optimism that he can improve and clean up some of his error issues. With Ibanez, the situation doesn't look so rosy.