Those who were wondering whether or not new GM Ruben Amaro is his own man are going to have to wait a little longer. Regrettably, his first major move didn't surprise anyone, bearing all the earmarks of his mentor and senior adviser, former GM Pat Gillick. The Phillies announced they have come to terms with free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez on a three-year $30 million contract pending the usual physical. Maybe the Phillies medical staff can find a hangnail.
Ibanez previously plied his trade for the Seattle Mariners making him another in a long line of refugees from the Pacific Northwest who made their way to the Delaware Valley during Gillick's tenure. And make no mistake about it, that connection played a big part in the decision to offer Ibanez a three year deal. Ibanez will take Pat Burrell's place in left field and, presumably, behind Ryan Howard in the batting order. That he will be 37-years old in June and bats left-handed were apparently not obstacles in the minds of the Phillies new brain trust. If he played for the Mariners he must be good.
There is no truth to the rumor that the signing prompted the Mets, Braves and Marlins to scrap any plans they might have had and go with all-lefty bullpens next season. That's fifty-four divisional games where a right-handed reliever would be completely unnecessary. There might be some truth to the rumor (which I am starting here) that Jayson Werth, the only right-handed power in the entire lineup, is going to up his arbitration demands given the extra load the Ibanez signing just placed on him. "Heck, if I have to be myself AND Pat Burrell, I want more money," Werth should say.
Look for Ibanez to start being replaced in late innings some time in June of 2009 with the frequency of his shortened appearances probably increasing in the second and third years of his contract.
Most reports describe Ibanez as a clutch hitter. As for his defense, word is he is a good clutch hitter. Cole Hamels and Brett Myers are already working on their head-shaking moves for any plays Ibanez botches in the field. Jamie Moyer, should he re-sign with the Phils, is working on his windsprints to back up home plate.