Raul Ibanez Rumors
The AL East figures to be one of the game's most competitive divisions in 2012. Here are the latest links from Florida, where all five AL East teams are preparing for the season...
- Raul Ibanez doesn’t have emotional, historical or financial ties keeping him on the Yankees’ roster, so Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders how long the club will stick with Ibanez if his struggles continue. But as Sherman point out, it’s still just March 15th.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman and third baseman Alex Rodriguez tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Blue Jays are becoming a serious threat in the AL East. “They aren’t a secret anymore,” Rodriguez said. “They are knocking on the door,” Cashman added. “It is undeniable that they are going to win and win for a while.” Blue Jays ownership could support a top ten payroll in time and “that isn’t a guess, that’s a fact,” GM Alex Anthopoulos said.
- John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that the relationship between Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine seems to be starting off well. If the Red Sox name Jose Iglesias their starting shortstop, it'll be a sign of just how much Valentine's opinion matters. The front office has maintained the defensive whiz needs more seasoning.
- Mark Melancon's interleague experience could help him transition from the NL Central to the AL East, Brian MacPherson Providence Journal writes.
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com ranks the AL East rotations, placing the Orioles fifth. They have intriguing arms such as Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta, but their rotation is filled with uncertainty from top to bottom this spring.
The Yankees have found their new designated hitter, officially announcing an agreement with Raul Ibanez that was first tweeted by ESPN's Buster Olney yesterday. The framework for a deal was done weeks ago with the ACES client, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who pegs the value at $1.1MM. Plate appearance incentives can bring the total to $4MM, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Never known for his defense, Ibanez has spent most of his career as a left fielder. He dabbled at DH with the Mariners and Royals before signing with the Phillies after the '08 season, notably appearing 69 times in that role for the 2001-02 Royals. Only eight other free agents hit more home runs in 2011 than Ibanez's 20, but he batted just .245/.289/.419 overall in 575 plate appearances. The Yankees hope the 39-year-old can take advantage of their short right field porch. Ibanez has a .304 OBP against lefties over the last three seasons, so he could be complemented by Andruw Jones, a right-handed hitter.
In a February 18th poll, about 32% of MLBTR readers felt Ibanez was the best DH option for the Yankees, which edged out other free agent choices such as Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hideki Matsui. Ibanez was linked to the Yankees as early as January, but they preferred to dump some of A.J. Burnett's contract on the Pirates before finishing a DH deal. That move opened a 40-man roster spot for the Yankees. The Phillies offered Ibanez arbitration in November, which almost certainly involved a handshake agreement he'd decline. In June, the Phillies will receive a supplemental draft pick for their loss.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
SUNDAY,8:40pm: Eric Chavez confirmed to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (via Twitter) that he was waiting on the A.J. Burnett deal to come back to the Yanks, but the veteran says that his return is still 50-50.
6:06pm: The Yankees have a framework in place for a deal worth about $1MM plus incentives with Raul Ibanez, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The deal has been on hold, however, because the club first had to be sure that they didn't have to take on a DH type such as Garrett Jones, Travis Hafner, or Bobby Abreu in an A.J. Burnett trade, Sherman tweets.
SATURDAY, 2:46pm: The Yankees have been negotiating extensively with representatives for Raul Ibanez, tweets Ken Davidoff of Newsday. An agreement seems very likely once the A.J. Burnett trade is finalized.
The Yankees agreed to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates yesterday, two days before their pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training. With less than 24 hours officially remaining in their offseason, let's round up the latest news surrounding the team...
- Burnett will take his physical tomorrow and final approval of the trade from the commissioner's office is likely to come Monday afternoon, reports Erik Boland of Newsday (on Twitter).
- Even after the Burnett trade, the Yankees have room in the budget for Eric Chavez or a left-handed DH but not both, according to Joel Sherman of The New York Post (Twitter links). Team executives plan to meet after the trade becomes official to discuss whether room can be made for both.
- The Yankees still prefer Raul Ibanez to Johnny Damon because he's better against right-handed pitchers and on defense, but Damon is not entirely off the board according to Sherman (on Twitter). MLBTR readers were split pretty evenly between those two (and Vladimir Guerrero) in this morning's poll about the club's DH spot.
- Hiroki Kuroda reported to camp today and spoke to reporters (including Chad Jennings of The Journal News) about his decision to stay with the Dodgers at the trade deadline last year. The 37-year-old right-hander also wouldn't commit to any plans beyond this season.
- Joe Brescia of The New York Times chatted briefly with Gene Michael, the team's former GM and current advisor to Brian Cashman. He talked about the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade, the difference between how the Yankees are run now compared to George Steinbrenner's heyday, and more.
The Yankees freed up some money yesterday by agreeing to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates for two minor leaguers and a total of $13MM in salary relief. They'll save $5MM in 2012 and $8MM in 2013. Reports indicate that they're expected to sign both Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez once the trade becomes official.
Chavez will fill out the bench like last year, but Ibanez would step in as the left-handed half of a DH platoon with Andruw Jones. Even though Spring Training is right around the corner, there is no shortage of DH-type bats on the open market as our Free Agent Tracker shows. If the Yankees were to decide to pass on Ibanez, they could always turn to Vladimir Guerrero or former Yankees Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Guerrero is a right-handed hitter, however. They also signed Russell Branyan to a minor league contract recently.
Given Yankee Stadium's short right field porch and the presence of Jones, it makes sense for the Yankees to pursue a left-handed bat. Ibanez hit .245/.289/.419 overall last year but .256/.307/.440 against righties, which is good but not great. Damon (.255/.314/.401) and Matsui (.242/.318/.336) weren't any better against righties, and in fact Guerrero outperformed all three of those guys against northpaws (.291/.315/.428). The Yankees have no shortage of DH options, but which one is the best?
4:46pm: Heyman says the Yankees won't "finalize" things with Ibanez and Chavez until after Burnett has passed his physical and the league has approved the trade (Twitter link).
8:00am: The Yankees are "intent" on acquiring two hitters and "remain focused" on Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The team's attention will turn to adding hitting depth once the rumored A.J. Burnett trade with the Pirates is finalized.
New York has long been known to be targeting one left-handed hitter as a part-time DH and bench bat, but moving Burnett would free up the payroll space for the Yankees to add even more depth. Ibanez would be limited to DH, pinch-hitting and only very occasional outfield appearances, but in Chavez, the Yankees would also have an infield option capable of spelling Alex Rodriguez at third base. The Bombers were already in serious talks with Ibanez as of last week.
- "Vladimir Guerrero has made it known to the Yankees that he wants their DH spot," tweets ESPN's Buster Olney, but Raul Ibanez remains the frontrunner. Ibanez had a slightly worse 2011 season, but the Yankees seem to prefer his left-handed bat.
- The Cubs and Red Sox submitted briefs regarding the Theo Epstein compensation issue, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and a decision could come this week.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told WEEI after the Ortiz settlement that he doesn't expect any major moves between now and when pitchers and catchers report Sunday, but added, "We're still working on some stuff." WEEI's Rob Bradford hears there's still no traction with Roy Oswalt.
- Orioles executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira will still fly to the Dominican Republic this weekend to scout six Cuban players, including outfielder Jorge Soler, he told Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com. The Orioles had interest in Yoenis Cespedes, but Ferreira isn't surprised or disappointed about not getting him.
- Matt Moore, Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Manny Banuelos, Xander Bogaerts, Gary Sanchez, Brandon Jacobs, Daniel Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Dellin Betances, Hak-Ju Lee, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Schoop, Noah Syndergaard, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mason Williams are the division's best prospects, based on Kevin Goldstein's recently-released top 101 prospects list for Baseball Prospectus. Jacobs, Norris, and Syndergaard didn't merit mentions on Keith Law's top 100 or his "just missed" list for ESPN. On the other hand, Law included Drew Hutchison, Chris Archer, Enny Romero, Mikie Mahtook, Taylor Guerrieri, Aaron Sanchez, and Blake Swihart on his list and Goldstein did not.
9:50pm: Talks were ongoing as of Friday evening, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and do not include Garrett Jones. Brink adds that Bucs are more receptive to taking on salary than moving a player or prospect.
4:14pm: The Yankees are telling the Pirates that absorbing $10MM isn't enough, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.
3:47pm: The Pirates appear to be willing to absorb $10MM in a trade, Heyman tweets. The Yankees have been pushing for an even split and seek an OK prospect in return. Heyman tweets that the chances of a deal remain "decent." The clubs are talking, but aren't close to a deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The Pirates are also looking at other starters.
12:34pm: There seems to be a fair amount of optimism about a deal, Heyman tweets.
10:28am: The Pirates haven't yet offered to pay $10MM of the $33MM remaining on Burnett's contract, Heyman tweets.
7:57am: The Yankees and Pirates continue discussing a possible A.J. Burnett trade, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. The Yankees are willing to pay a substantial portion of the $33MM remaining on the right-hander’s contract through 2013, but the teams are still a few million apart. The Yankees first asked the Pirates to pay well over $11MM, Heyman writes.
The Yankees want to create payroll room for a designated hitter and appear to be leaning toward Raul Ibanez, perhaps because they prefer his ability to play the outfield. Johnny Damon and Eric Chavez also intrigue the Yankees as possible free agent additions, according to Heyman. The Pirates rejected the Yankees’ request for Garrett Jones, Heyman writes.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Burnett’s no-trade list includes all of the teams on the West Coast (Twitter links). Sherman expects the Yankees to trade Burnett before Spring Training and suggests the team is waiting to see if the Pirates or another club offers to absorb more money.
- The Red Sox signed 17-year-old Australian Daniel McGrath, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. The left-hander will visit Boston's Spring Training camp for a week before returning to finish high school in Australia. Bradford hears 15 MLB teams had interest before Boston completed the deal.
- Even after signing Hall, the Yankees continue to be focused on Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Last night we learned that they were in serious talks with Ibanez, and Heyman says the Yankees are in excellent position because all of their targets have interest in playing for a contender.
- Meanwhile, Joel Sherman of The New York Post reports that the Yankees are not offering more than $2MM for a DH-type and might not even want to spend more than $1MM.
- Orioles executive director of international recruiting Fred Ferreira will watch Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler in the Dominican Republic when he travels to watch Yoenis Cespedes play, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported earlier tonight that the Yankees could add a left-handed hitter such as Ibanez, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui within a week. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said last week that he would like to see GM Brian Cashman add a bat before Opening Day.
Ibanez posted a .245/.289/.419 line with 20 home runs in 575 plate appearances as the Phillies' everyday left fielder last year. The 39-year-old could provide the Yankees with an option at designated hitter or in the corner outfield positions. He owns a .286/.351/.488 line against right-handed pitching in 16 MLB seasons and appears to be a possible platoon partner for Andruw Jones.