Raul Ibanez put up an OPS of .812 against right-handed pitching in 2012, a split the Mariners hope to benefit from in 2013. Photo Credit: AP
Figured it wouldn’t take long for the Raul Ibanez signing to generate some angst in the local fanbase. Yes, I know, he’s 40 years old and he plays positions that the Mariners have some much younger guys slotted for. He’s not Josh Hamilton and he’s not Nick Swisher.
Here’s the thing, though. Ibanez is a part-time player now and a pretty good one at that. He is envisioned for part-time roles at multiple positions where the Mariners, quite frankly, need upgrades.
And we’re still only in December. The season begins in April.
Part of the challenge of doing proper baseball analysis is to view each move as a piece to a whole puzzle. And when you take a few deep breaths, consider where the pieces fit, then look at the Ibanez move for what it is, it is pretty easy to envision where it could all head as long as the Mariners hold up their end of the bargain. By that, I mean, as long as the Mariners don’t try to hold Ibanez up alongside Kendrys Morales as the showpiece of their winter moves. If that’s what they try to do come April 1, then by all means, throw an angst party.
Believe me, we’ve been on to that part of the team’s m.o. for some time now. Those of you just figuring that part out, welcome to the party. Yes, the Mariners have money to spend this winter — or so they keep saying — and it’s been difficult watching free agent after free agent sign with other teams when you know they have the OBP, the slugging, whatever, to help a Mariners team in big need of both. No more “Who? Who? Who?” this season, please. Put the owls to sleep. There have been a plethora of guys who could have helped the Mariners via free agency or trade.
And there still are.
I’ve mentioned Michael Bourn before and did it again in today’s paper. I listed his age last night at 29, but he actually turns 30 today, so he’s no spring chicken. Thing is, he still runs like one. He’s an answer to what will soon be a long-term need for the team in center field and he’s a solution for a present need at leadoff.
No, he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs. But we’ve said all winter long that there are various different ways the Mariners can go about bettering their team and this is one of them. Not every guy who looks and plays like Bourn has to turn into Chone Figgins. There are plenty of guys who have looked and played like Bourn who did very well at his age. One of them, Ichiro, even put up great numbers at that age playing home games at Safeco Field.
If not Bourn, the Mariners can try to swing a trade for somebody else. But I mention Bourn simply because the field of competition for him has narrowed, the Mariners will need a center fielder after Franklin Gutierrez’s contract runs out (unless they feel like paying a $7.5 million option in 2014 to a guy who hasn’t had a healthy season since 2008 — remember he had the knee tendinitis in 2009) and they need a real leadoff guy right now. The Mariners also have a glut of potential platoon type guys for the outfield corners and I spelled out for you all at the winter meetings how that could actually work with a guy like Bourn anchoring center field.
Personally, I like the idea of rotating Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and Ibanez around the outfield corners with Jason Bay and/or Casper Wells. Those are much stronger corners than the team had last year, plus, you’d get a huge upgrade in center.
And you’d get that upgrade for years to come.