Now that the A.J. Burnett deal was made official yesterday, the Yankees have finally reached a deal with Raul Ibanez on a one-year $1.1 million deal, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. Incentives that are based on plate appearances can make the deal worth up to $4 million.
Ibanez was brought in to be the DH against right handed pitchers. He had just a .307 OBP and .747 OPS against them last year, but is only a year removed from a .366 OBP and a .822 OPS. He has put in work with famed hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo this offseason and will also be taking aim at the short porch in right field so the hope is he’ll rebound a bit offensively this year.
But Ibanez will be 40-years-old by June of this season so his 2011 season may be a good indicator of where he is at now and he could struggle mightily again this year. That’s where his contract will come into play as it is mostly incentive based and the guaranteed $1.1 million really isn’t that much. If he sucks, the Yankees can just cut him and find another DH at the trade deadline.
The other DH the Yankees considered was Johnny Damon, but his contract demands of $5 million seemed to scare them away. Beyond contract demands, the Yankees don’t like the fact that he hasn’t played in the field for the past two seasons. Ibanez is really not a better option defensively, but he has at least been out there over the past two seasons.
This deal is of course terrible news for Russell Branyan, whom the Yankees signed to a non-guaranteed minor league deal last week. Now he pretty much has to hope for an injury to Ibanez or somebody even more important if he’s got a shot to make the team. It’s really ashame too because he isn’t that much worse than Ibanez really being one year removed from a .352 OBP and .875 OPS against righties. Hopefully Branyan will stick around in the minors for a month or two as insurance, but that doesn’t seem likely.