Prior to last season the New York Yankees decided to pass on Raul Ibanez after a season that saw him hit 19 home runs and perform some postseason heroics. The Yankees instead signed Travis Hafner and Hafner did what Hafner does these days and got hurt and was generally ineffective when he was healthy. Ibanez, on the other hand, signed with the Seattle Mariners and went on to hit 29 home runs with a .242/.306/.487 slash line. Now, there are reports that the Yankees are interested in bringing Ibanez back.
Ibanez will turn 42 in June and how much he has left in the tank is anyone’s guess. Ibanez hit .242/.303/.486 with 21 home runs against right-handed pitching and .244/.314/.488 with eight homers against left-handers. That is a fairly equal split although he did have 200 more at bats against righties than lefties but still had 127 at bats against lefty pitching.
Ibanez is what he is, a soon-to-be 42-year-old left-handed hitter. Can he reproduce his production form last season? Probably not. Twenty-nine home runs isn’t going to be easy to replicate, especially at Ibanez’s age.
The Yankees have a slew of holes on their roster and while Ibanez might be somewhat affordable he is still an old bat that can only serve as a DH. Given the health and age of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (if he isn’t suspended) and just about everyone else on the roster, the Yankees would be better served to either keep the spot open or to find someone who can at least play the field.
If the Yankees learned anything at all last season it was that age and baseball sometimes don’t get along. The Yankees’ age showed as injury after injury took its toll. The Yankees needed as much depth and roster flexibility as possible just to get through the season. This offseason, the Yankees need to guard against a repeat of last season by bringing in quality depth while plugging major holes in the rotation where three-fifths of the starting rotation needs to be replaced.
The Yankees still have questions surrounding Derek Jeter and his age and health. There are questions surrounding Rodriguez and whether he will be suspended and if he isn’t how much he can play third base after two hip surgeries. Mark Teixeira is coming off of a wrist injury and there is no telling what he will offer at the plate. Ichiro Suzuki is 40. Alfonso Soriano is 37. There is plenty of age already on this roster.
Ibanez holds a special place in Yankees’ fan’s hearts but adding him to a roster already ripe with age is not going to help the team. The Yankees don’t need an old bat, regardless of his power profile, that can’t play the field. They need to find quality depth that will help prevent a repeat of last year.