In one of the threads yesterday, there was a discussion about the pros and cons of trading Raul Ibanez. Considering how strong we came out against the Ibanez signing and how easy it is to find a servicable designated hitter, one would probably expect that we would support shipping Raul out of town. After all, he’s 33 years old, under contract for $4.3 million next year, and he doesn’t walk that often or hit the ball out of the park very much.
Well, despite our protestations against the signing, Ibanez has just hit, hit, and hit some more since signing. He’s currently sporting a .298 EqA, highest on the team, and his VORP puts him 4th in baseball among DHs behind David Ortiz, David Dellucci, and Travis Hafner. If you want to compare him to left fielders, his EqA puts him in the same league as Pat Burrell, Ryan Klesko, Carlos Lee, Kevin Mench, and Cliff Floyd.
We talk a lot about replacement level and how easy it is to find a DH to play for peanuts. But if you trade Raul Ibanez and replace him with a guy like Josh Phelps, you’re losing around 30 runs over the course of a season. The 2006 Mariners cannot afford to lose 30 runs off their offense, and even if they wisely spend the $4 million that trading Ibanez would free up, the odds of them finding another player capable of posting a .300 EqA in Safeco Field for that kind of cash are somewhere between slim and none.
The M’s stink, there’s no question about that. But they can’t waive the white flag on 2006 right now. After two abysmal seasons, they have to be at least decent next year. Trading Raul Ibanez for a mid tier prospect will almost certainly make the 2006 Mariners a worse team, and the kind of player you’d expect to get back for him doesn’t justify making that maneuver.
We were against the Ibanez deal when it went down, but there’s no question that we were dead wrong. He’s been way better than advertised, and right now, he’s an indispensible part of the offense. The organization doesn’t have a good way to replace him internally, and its unlikely they could match his performance at his salary level in the free agent market.
Trade Randy Winn. Trade Eddie Guardado. But hang on to Raul Ibanez. Two years ago, I’d never have imagined saying this, but he’s too big of a bargain and too valuable to let go.