Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Evaluating the Ibanez Contract

Now that Raul has officially donned Pinstripes (and not Phillies pinstripes), it is time to evaluate his tenure with the Phillies, focusing of course on his contract.  When the Phils signed Raul, I, as a lifelong Pat Burrell fan, was immediately disappointed.  But trying to be objective, I saw Raul as a good immediate signing that would ultimately be costly and make the Phillies overly left-handed.  In retrospect, I was right.

Ibanez put up an incredible 2 month span upon signing with the Phils, then was injured, and never recovered.  After hitting .309 with 22 homers and 60 RBI in the first half of '09, Raul hit .232 with 12 homers for the rest of the season.  Last year, Raul made an 8 figure salary to post the worst batting average, slugging %, and on base % of his career as a starter.  Even disregarding last season, in both 2009 and 2010, Raul posted batting averages below .280 for the first time in his career as a starter.  Raul failed to top 100 RBI as a Phillie despite topping the mark in his three prior seasons with the Mariners.  He also had three straight 100+ strikeout seasons with the Phils setting a career high in 2009 with 119.  Take away those 2 months in 09, and all those Raauuuuulllllll chants at the ballpark wouldn't have been confused with boos.  The would have been boos!  

Further, due to Raul's left-handedness and overall lack of production, the Phillies as a team became extra susceptible to left-handed pitching.  In 2008, Raul hit a cool .305 against Lefties prompting Ruben Amaro to say that the fact that Raul was left-handed was not an issue.  Amaro proved correct in 2009, but since then Ibanez's numbers have declined against lefties to such a point that the Yankees will likely use him largely as a platoon player this season.  

What Raul's contract showed is the pitfalls of giving any aging position player a multi-year deal with an 8 figure salary.  For 31.5 million $, the Phillies got 2 months of a great player, and 2.5 years of a declining slugger that showed flashes, but was far too often a liability to the team.  If the flashes John Mayberry showed last year are legit, look for a massive increase in production from left field, but offensively and defensively.  

I will say that the one place Ibanez showed his worth was in the clutch where he was consistently a strong hitter.  This being the case, I am surprised the Phillies did not make more of an effort to sign him to be a left-handed bat off the bench and part-time player instead of Laynce Nix.  


  1. I think the decision to go with Nix came in part because he's been a plus defender at multiple positions in his career, so in that respect he gives Manuel a little bit more flexibility regarding when and how he uses him.

    Also, I can't help but ask: what should the Phillies have done in left field in 2009? Signing Burrell would have been similar from a career perspective as signing Ibanez. Domonic Brown wasn't ready, and as I recall the Phils didn't have many other in-house options. Also, don't forget that Ibanez carried the Phillies offense during an absolutely crucial stretch in 2010 when many of the regulars were injured or slumping.

    You know how I feel: judging Phillies contracts has to be done on a sliding scale, since we can afford huge contracts. Raul's contract wasn't nearly as detrimental to us as it would have been to, say, the A's or Royals, or even the Rays or Cardinals. So even though we "overpaid," you have to take that description with a grain of salt since it clearly didn't prevent us from bringing in other massive contracts like Halladay and Lee.

  2. I am comparing Ibanez's contract to what he deserved requisite to his production. At the time, in lieu of re-signing Burrell (and I was ok with letting him walk from a purely baseball standpoint), my #1 target for the team was Juan Rivera. Following '08, Rivera was a free-agent righty corner OF who would be 30 years old entering the 2009 season. He had a career year in 2006 when he hit .310 with 20+ homers in 450 at bats. He got hurt in 07 and only played sparingly in 08 but still showed solid pop (12 homers in 256 at bats). He wound up re-signing with the Angels for 3 years and 12.75 million. In 09, he hit .287 with 25 homers and 88 RBI while striking out just 57 times. Like Raul, his production fell off drastically from there.

  3. Also recall that Juan Rivera was widely regarded as an extremely negative clubhouse presence, whereas I strongly enjoyed occasionally seeing Raul Ibanez at the Starbucks or Boathouse in Wayne.

  4. I don't recall anything about Rivera's clubhouse character, but have a hard-time believing it was "extremely negative" if the Angels were willing to re-sign him to a multi-year deal.