The Phillies have agreed to terms with free agent leftfielder Raul Ibanez.
It will be a three-year, $31.5 million contract.
Ibanez, 36, fills a void that had been in left field since the season ended. It became clear the Phillies did not want free agent leftfielder Pat Burrell back, and Ibanez quickly emerged as one of their top choices. They tried earlier this week to acquire Mark DeRosa from the Chicago Cubs, but once that fell through they stepped up their efforts with Ibanez, who they had been talking to for a while.
Ibanez, 36, hit .293 with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs last season for the Seattle Mariners. He has 338 RBIs over the past three seasons, which ranks 12th in baseball. Interestingly, Ryan Howard ranks first (431) and Chase Utley ranks 20th (309), which means the Phillies have three of the top 20 RBI-men over the past three years in their lineup. (Only three outfielders -- Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday -- have more RBIs than Ibanez in that span.) Burrell ranked 32nd in that category with 278 RBIs. Of course, Burrell also hit righthanded, which is important to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. He strives for balance in his lineup, but it looks like Manuel will have lefthanded hitters in his Nos. 3, 4 and 5 slots.
Is this deal with Ibanez good for the Phillies?
Ibanez is a career .286 hitter. He hit better against lefthanded pitching (.305) than righthanded pitching (.288) last season, but in his career he is 25 points better against righthanders (.293) than lefthanders (.268). Howard hits 73 points better against righthanders and Utley hits 26 points better against righthanders. Burrell hits 25 points better against lefthanders, but weighing their options the Phillies obviously felt they are better with Ibanez than Burrell.
Because Ibanez is a Type A free agent and because the Mariners offered him salary arbitration, the Phillies will forfeit their first-round draft pick in 2009 to the Mariners.
Burrell leaves the Phillies in third place on the franchise's all-time list in home runs (251) behind Mike Schmidt (548) and Del Ennis (259). He also ranks seventh in RBIs (827), eighth in extra-base hits (518), fifth in walks (785) and second in strikeouts (1,273).
Here's another thing to consider when looking at Ibanez's numbers: He played half his games in Safeco Field. According to The Bill James Handbook 2009, Safeco Field had a 92 runs index from 2006-08, which ranked 12th out of 14 ballparks in the American League. Citizens Bank Park had a 104 runs index from 2006-08, which ranked fifth out of 16 ballparks in the National League.
A 100 index means the park is neutral to hitters and pitchers. An index higher than 100 favors hitters and an index less than 100 favors pitchers. Ibanez put up those numbers in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. He could find things a bit better in Philly.
The Phillies are still looking for pitching.
Contract negotiations with Jamie Moyer have gone very slowly, but Manuel said he thinks Moyer, who has been talking to the Brewers, will be back. If that happens, the first four spots in the Phillies' rotation are secure: Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton and Moyer. Manuel said he expected J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick and Carlos Carrasco to compete for the fifth spot. Manuel didn't mention Adam Eaton, and for good reason: the Phillies are trying to give him away, eating most of his salary in the process.
Sources said yesterday the Phillies are close to a deal for righthanded relief pitcher Chan Ho Park.
The Phillies are expected to sign righthander Blaine Neal to a minor-league contract. Neal, a South Jersey native and Bishop Eustace graduate, has pitched in the majors for Florida, San Diego, Colorado and Boston. Neal and Mike Koplove, a Philadelphia native who agreed to terms to a minor-league contract last month, will get looks in major-league camp this spring.