Yesterday, the New York Yankees made the A.J. Burnett trade official and moved on with the rest of their off-season. The next move they made was one they’ve had in the works for the last few weeks (they were waiting for Burnett’s contract to go away). They signed Raúl Ibañez to be their designated hitter against right-handed pitchers. My question is, is Ibañez going to provide anything that Jorge Posada wouldn’t have, had they not unceremoniously dumped him?
First of all let’s start by comparing the two players. Posada, who turned 40 in August, was the Yankees DH for most of last season (eventually only against righties). He ended up with a slash line of .235/.315/.398 with 14 HR and 44 RBI. If you judge Jorge by those numbers, you’d think he was done too.
If you dig a little deeper, however, you might see a different story. If you take away Jorge’s numbers against lefties, his slash line becomes a much more respectable .269/.348/.466. His 14 HR and 41 RBI also look a lot more impressive when you realize they all came against righties, and he hit them in just 279 ABs. If you were to spread that over a full season of just facing righties, Posada may have ended up with over 20 homers. While there’s no doubt that Jorge should never face a left-handed batter again as long as he lives, he wouldn’t have had to as the DH in 2012.
Ibañez’s numbers are actually pretty similar to Jorge’s. The final slash line for the soon-to-be 40-year-old in the 2011 season was .245/.289/.419, and he ended up with 20 HR and 84 RBI for the Philadelphia Phillies. On the surface, those numbers are better than Posada’s. First of all, Ibañez was allowed to play against lefties, despite not being a switch hitter. When you examine Ibañez’s numbers against righties, things get a little better for him too. His slash line jumps a bit to .256/.307/.440 and he managed 16 HR in 402 ABs.
Statistically speaking, it’s hard to choose a winner. While Posada’s numbers appear much better against righties because he put them up in almost 200 fewer at bats, there’s something to be said for Ibañez’s durability. Posada hasn’t played 132 games (Ibañez’s total last season) since 2007. With Ibañez, you’ll have a guy you can better count on to be in the lineup every day (at least every day a righty pitches for the opposing team).
If all things are equal though, I take Posada’s numbers over Ibañez’s. Once he got his season opening slump out of the way, Posada was pretty monstrous against righties to end the season. He also led the team in hitting in the ALDS, which is pretty impressive for a “washed up” 40-year-old.
The one thing that Raúl brings to the table that Posada certainly couldn’t, is the ability to still play the outfield. I know he isn’t considered a very good outfielder (one of the worst, in fact), but he can at least still play the field. He can act as a fifth or sixth outfielder, or fill in in a pinch if more than one person gets hurt, and it won’t kill the team (He can catch the ball). Posada has shown that he simply cannot play behind the dish anymore without hurting the Yankees. He has trouble catching, throwing and blocking the plate, which are all pretty important.
The problem that Posada brings that Ibañez doesn’t is the attitude. The last couple of seasons, Posada’s pride seemed to block the “all for one and one for all” attitude that made him a leader in the clubhouse the first fifteen seasons of his career. He pouted in 2010 when people suggested his pitching staff didn’t like throwing to him. He pouted in 2011 when he was told his catching days were over. Finally, he pouted to the extreme when Girardi asked him to bat 9th in a game and even refused to play (against the Red Sox no less). This led to his benching, although he eventually worked his way back into the lineup and more than held his own the rest of the year.
As far as I know, Ibañez does not bring this kind of pride baggage to the clubhouse. I’ve never heard of him pouting, refusing to play, or doing anything that wasn’t in the best interest of whatever team he was on at the time. By all accounts, he’s still a great clubhouse presence, and he knows his role coming into the 2012 season. Maybe Brian Cashman and the Yankees tired of Posada’s attitude problems and that’s why they made it clear, basically from the end of last season, that they would not be bringing Jorge back.
Finally, Ibañez will be making $1.1MM for 2012. Last season, Jorge was among the highest paid DHs in the league, as he pulled in $13.1MM. Granted, there was no way he would have commanded such a salary this season, but would he have accepted just over $1MM (if not a minor league deal)? Frankly, I think it would have been just one more thing for Jorge to pout about.
Overall, i think this is a good move for the Yankees, because it is a move forward. Originally they jettisoned Posada because they needed the DH/emergency catcher role to go to Jesús Montero. They turned Montero into right-handed pitcher Michael Pineda, which re-opened the DH role. They could have easily gone back to Posada for that, but I’m glad they didn’t. Frankly speaking, Posada’s attitude problems last year left a sour taste in my mouth. Maybe the Yankees felt the same way, and that’s why Posada’s gone.
Is Ibañez my favorite option for this role? No. He’s going to be 40 years old, he’s coming off a couple of decent, but not good, seasons, and his numbers against righties aren’t exactly staggering. At the end of the day, Ibañez fits the budget and his handedness and swing fit Yankees stadium perfectly. He won’t be here next year, and if he can’t produce this season, the Yankees can just cut him and get someone else to solidify their lineup for the playoff push.
I’m sure the debate will heat up if Ibañez happens to get off to a slow start, but this is the last time we’ll address this comparison on Jobu’s Rum… unless the debate gets really intense… I mean, we have to give the people what they want!
Featured image courtesy of: Len Redkoles/Getty Images
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