Signing Ibanez an absurd move by Phillies

December, 12, 2008
Raul Ibanez will turn 37 during the first year of his new three-year deal with the Phillies and finish it at age 39. He's very similar to the player he's replacing, Pat Burrell. But Ibanez is four years older, is a far worse defensive player and -- outside of a blip in 2008 -- does not hit left-handed pitching. (His OPS against left-handers was .868 in 2008 but was .650 in 2007 and .661 in 2006.)

If the Phillies were willing to give this contract to Ibanez, they should have offered it to Burrell, who at least is less likely to fall off a cliff offensively and would have kept their lineup a little more balanced. The difference in 2009 will be slight, but by 2011, there's a good chance Ibanez will be just an albatross, both financially and defensively.

The most absurd part of this signing is the fact that the Phillies decided not to offer arbitration to Burrell, who also had a Type A designation, meaning the Phils could have either brought him back on a one-year deal or received two high draft picks if he signed elsewhere. If Burrell had accepted (the deadline was earlier this week), the Phillies would have had Burrell on every general manager's favorite Christmas gift, a one-year contract, which limits the team's downside risk and might even provide a boost by putting the player into another walk year. If Burrell had not accepted, which seems likely for a number of reasons, the Phillies would have been set up to receive two draft picks, a compensatory pick and probably a late first-rounder or early second-rounder. It would have been a win either way, so signing a very similar player to a three-year contract without getting the picks for Burrell is plain ol' mismanagement. And to make matters worse, the move cost the Phillies their own first-round draft pick. We're talking about the scouting staff that drafted top prospects Michael Taylor, Dominic Brown, Jason Donald and Lou Marson in the past few years, as well as Adrian Cardenas and Josh Outman, both of whom were used to land Joe Blanton in a midseason trade. The goal should be to give the scouting department more picks, not fewer, unless the move makes the big league club better, which the Burrell-for-Ibanez tradeoff does not.

The signing of Ibanez gives the market for all-bat-no-glove hitters a benchmark for future negotiations, which might ease the way for Adam Dunn, Burrell and Bobby Abreu to sign over the next week or two. The Mets, Nationals and White Sox are known to be interested in at least one of those players, and the Dodgers could jump in if they don't sign Manny Ramirez. It also clears one more player out of the market if the White Sox do wish to trade Jermaine Dye, whose defense has gone from plus to minus over the past few years.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer



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