Throughout the offseason I wrote three separate posts here discussing the idea of the Phillies signing Raul Ibanez to man leftfield everyday. My feelings were not ambiguous in the least: as both a Phillies fan and an analyst, I did not support the move for several reasons. Ibanez was essentially just as poor as Pat Burrell on the defensive front, did not produce enough offensively to overcome these defensive shortcomings, and would begin his Phillies tenure at 36 years old. On top of that, the contractual terms of three years at a dollar figure in excess of $30 mil just seemed like way too much of a commitment.
This April, Ibanez hit .359/.433/.718, with seven dingers and a .487 wOBA. Defensively, he has a +2.5 UZR rating in 20 games out in leftfield. All told, Ibanez produced +1.5 wins, over 60 percent of the +2.3 wins he recorded last season. Despite his sheer awesomeness in the opening month of the season, my stance has not changed and I once again feel compelled to reiterate the difference between disliking a player and disliking a transaction or acquisition.
I have no issues with Raul Ibanez as a person. He seems like a good guy for this type of Phillies team and his numbers this month have instilled confidence in just about every Phillies fan. At the time of the signing, my pessimistic sentiments stemmed more from the contractual terms and the process of the move as opposed to the player brought in. Though the severity of the depressed free agent economy could not necessarily have been predicted, the beginning of the offseason did have a different feel and several analysts suggested that the commitments both monetarily and with roster space would not be as vast as years past.
Ibanez is not going to keep up this pace for the entire season. Dave Cameron got to watch him intently over the last several seasons and aptly summed the experience up by saying Ibanez will go on stretches during which he hits like Babe Ruth and performs average offensively in between these spurts. His defense also is not very likely to stay in the positive given his true talent level in this regard. It could, but a betting man would be wise to stick to the most probable outcome.
Overall, Ibanez has been incredible for the Phillies so far, but solely evaluating the product of a move and not the process is in no way the best analytical route to take. A combination of the two is really the most accurate since the product cannot be ignored but the process is at least equally important. Signing Ibanez to this deal when other similar players signed for very low-risk contracts was not wise from a financial standpoint.
He is not a bad player and I still root for him throughout each plate appearance, but while Ibanez has instilled confidence in fans thus far, GM Ruben Amaro did not instill the same confidence in at least this Phillies fan at the time of the signing.
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