M’s Opt For Ibanez as Swisher Signs With Cleveland
I know, I know, the M’s re-re-acquiring Raul Ibanez isn’t causally linked to Nick Swisher signing a relatively cheap contract in Cleveland. The timing wasn’t great for frustrated M’s fans (or for Jack Zduriencik, I’d assume), but it’s just a coincidence.
It’s easier to make that claim because the M’s never really seemed interested in Swisher. The M’s had a need, and Swisher’s positional flexibility seemed tailor-made for the 2013 ball club, but Zduriencik had his sights elsewhere. That’s not to suggest that the M’s think a 41 year old Ibanez can match Swisher’s production, just that Zduriencik wasn’t interested in a big-dollar free agent offensive upgrade once Josh Hamilton spurned his offer.
So that brings us to Ibanez, the veteran OF/DH who had a power surge last year playing in new Yankee Stadium. The park and positive defensive numbers (???) pushed his WAR over 1, but in more limited time, in Safeco, I’d have a hard time seeing him come all that close to 1 WAR next year.
What’s sort of interesting is that Zduriencik hasn’t suggested that he expects Ibanez to produce much. The public statements about the pick-up all focus on Raul’s leadership, experience and class. I’ve no reason to doubt that Ibanez possesses these qualities, but I have a few to doubt the M’s offensive production in 2013 will rival the late 90s M’s. it’s just one move, and its still December, but it appears Zduriencik is trying to get more out of the talent already on the roster instead of adding talent to the roster.
I’m all for squeezing the most out of the young players on the team. Great coaching can help do that, and competition can often help too, but getting benched so a player-coach hybrid can play probably isn’t a great way to make Eric Thames a better player. Mike Carp faced long odds before, and you’d figure this seals his fate. I can see an argument that Ibanez is a better bet to outhit both next year, but slotting Ibanez in shows very little confidence in the in-house options.# None of the myriad corner OF’s the M’s have acquired in recent years was a Wil-Myers-esque prospect, but the trade of Trayvon Robinson and freezing out Thames suggests the M’s were just as underwhelmed by the pick-ups as Dave Cameron, and if you’ve heard Dave talk about Robinson, that’s saying something.
Essentially, the Ibanez pick-up is great if you agree that the M’s really got zero near-MLB talent for the flurry of minor moves over the past two years, and that patching together a LF/1B/DH job share will somehow have all sorts of leadership externalities that inspire Dustin Ackley to line outside fastballs down the LF line. I like Raul a lot, and think he could be a useful bench bat somewhere, but I don’t like the sense that this front office values leadership over development.*
# I’d seen some comments suggesting that if the M’s replaced Carlos Peguero with Ibanez, it’d all be worth it. Well, the M’s DFA’d DJ Mitchell instead. Mitchell’s an undersized, low-velo righty who’s out pitched his raw stuff in AAA. He’s decent depth in a system that has tons of decent depth, so it’s not a travesty or anything, but it doesn’t help clarify the OF situation
* For all his avuncular charm and experience, Eduardo Perez was unable to help Jeff Clement hit a curveball. The idea that leadership can inspire others is a testable hypothesis that has been tested again and again and again. No, none of these tests is dispositive, but I’d love to see a scrap of evidence from the ‘leadership is magic’ crowd.