Aug
02

Yankees got it right with Raul

By

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Jesus Montero was going to be the Yankees’ regular, or at least part-time DH in 2012. We were pretty sure of it all offseason long … until the Yankees traded him to the Mariners for Michael Pineda. With just a month left until Spring Training opened, the Yankees were without a DH and the search was on. Names like Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Russell Branyan, Bobby Abreu, Garrett Jones, and Travis Hafner were all connected to New York at some point, either through legitimate reporting or speculation. Instead, the Yankees went in another direction.

Just days before camp opened and month after the Montero-Pineda trade, the Yankees agreed to sign then-39-year-old Raul Ibanez to be the left-handed half of the DH platoon. His performance had been in clear decline in recent years and he didn’t offer the True Yankee™-ness or name value as some of the other DH options, but it’s clear at this point the Yankees picked the right guy for the job. Ibanez has hit a respectable .243/.304/.461 (100 wRC+) in 293 plate appearances this year, seeing far more time in the field than anyone could have expected. He’s also come up with several big hits.

Meanwhile, the other free agent DH alternatives have pretty much flopped. Pena is hitting .198/.321/.364 (96 wRC+) with a 30.6% strikeout rate in 445 plate appearances for the division rival Rays. Damon signed with the Indians a month into the season and owns a .222/.281/.329 line (70 wRC+) in 224 plate appearances. The media in Cleveland is calling for him to be released so the kids can play. Matsui was released after signing with the Rays at midseason and produced a .147/.214/.221 line (18 wRC+) in 103 plate appearances. Branyan signed a minor league deal with the Yankees but has missed most of the season with back problems. Abreu has been designated for assignment twice and trade talks for Jones and Hafner were never really serious.

Ironically enough, part of the reason why the Yankees preferred Ibanez to Damon and Matsui was his ability to play the outfield. All three are terrible defenders, but Ibanez was the only one to spend significant time in the field in recent years. When Brett Gardner went down, Raul stepped right into left field and the Yankees nary missed a beat. He’s out-hit the other DH options and despite his general defensive shakiness, he’s been reliable in the field as well. The Bombers could have gone in any number of directions to fill Montero’s roster spot before the season, but they made the right call by bringing in the guy who few fans felt was the best candidate for the job.

Categories : Players

79 Comments»

  1. Dropped Third says:

    Well played cash, well played.

  2. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    I would have preferred Barry Bonds.

  3. DERP says:

    Is this the first smart move that Cashman has made since he took the job?

  4. Eddard says:

    The best thing about Raul is that he’s a clutch hitter. He always gives us good ABs late in close ballgames and that’s all that matters in October. They said they signed him because he had recently played the field and Damon/Matsui hadn’t so it turned out ok when Gardner went down.

  5. KennyH123 says:

    Well I guess compared to the other deadbeats you compared him to, I guess a .243 BA and .304 OBP are “respectable”.

    However, for a DH whose only skill is hitting, those are not good numbers at all. I think they could have done a lot better. A LOT.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      Who?

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Well sure, they could have signed Prince Fielder for 10 years, $225M.

      Aside from that, without names, your claim doesn’t hold a lot of water.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Do you know how many people here were suggesting just that before the season on here?

        Need a DH type for when you’re not rotating the other guys? Bring in Prince for ten years. And, oh yeah, A-Rod’s contract is an albatross.

    • jjyank says:

      He compared Ibanez to other realistic options for that role at the time. Which, in assessing Cashman’s actual decision, makes the most sense.

    • Mike HC says:

      I think he is more of a bench player than a “DH.” With our aging infield, and strategy of platooning guys, the DH is really just a series of bench guys and part time players, depending on the matchups and/or who is resting that day.

      If you consider him a starter, I agree the Yanks could have done better. But if you classify him as a bench guy, like I do, he has been great.

      • DM says:

        Right. And the idea of the original post is a bit misleading as well. They were looking for a cost-effective “bat” who could play the OF — not a “DH”. Right from the start, and before Gardner went down, Raul was getting reps in the field with the other regulars being rotated at DH. Like Jones, Ibanez wasn’t going to be relegated to DH-only duty or emergency-only OF play. 1/2 day rests at DH and defensive flexibility was the plan from the start.

  6. Eric Schultz says:

    Don’t forget Jesus Montero: 89 wRC+

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      118 on the road, FWIW.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

        Safeco Field: Where offense goes to die.

        • FIPster Doofus says:

          There and Petco. I think it’s fair to say Montero would be league average or better if he were still a Yankee. Judging by his numbers, take him out of Safeco and he contribute.

          • jjyank says:

            I think there’s something to be said for lineup protection too. I think the concept is generally overrated, but there is probably a difference between hitting in the M’s lineup and hitting in the Yankees’ lineup.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              Absolutely. I’ve always believed he would have been much better served hitting 7th or 8th as a Yankee. That ship already sailed and crashed into an iceberg (which crashed into Michael Pineda’s shoulder) already.

            • Mike HC says:

              I remember ARod had to bribe him to practice more and claimed that Montero was bored in AAA. Maybe Seattle just doesn’t do it for him either, ha.

              • DM says:

                It was worse than that. A-Rod fined him 500 bucks every time he didn’t come in early for extra BP. I guess Alex felt that giving him a reward via bribery wouldn’t be sufficient motivation. It’s a shame he had to do anything at all to get a young player going.

            • DM says:

              There would be — but you also have to consider that he wouldn’t get the same amount of playing time here on a competitive team with a rotating DH. And despite what some say about the catching situation, there’s no way Montero would be used here as the only other option on the roster for that position — i.e., they’d still need to carry a 3rd catcher. Better lineup, better ball park for half the games — but a worse opportunity for regular playing time.

      • Steve (different one) says:

        I think his Kryptonite is right handed pitching, not safeco. His splits are ghastly, and that can’t all be park effects.

        Not saying he won’t improve, but I don’t think we can blame it all on Safeco.

  7. El Maestro says:

    Have to accept that I was clearly wrong when I preferred Damon to Ibañez to be signed… Also Raul has clearly become a better fielder, going from atrocious to serviceable.

    Well played indeed.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Well, FWIW, you weren’t the only one who preferred Damon.

      I know it’s shocking, but it almost seems like Cashman knows more than we fans know.

  8. Mike HC says:

    He reminds me of the Cecil Fielder, Ruben Sierra type players the Yanks used to rely on during the dynasty years. It is nice to have that power hitting veteran to fill in when necessary and/or get clutch hits in tough situations.

  9. Steve (different one) says:

    Another guy people wanted who cratered: Giambi.

    Also, Vlad.

    Some of this is ARod and others, but the Yankees have gotten a .318/.381/.526 line from the DH position this year. Thats pretty great considering the situation in the winter.

  10. Robinson Tilapia says:

    More surprising to me that every single one of those guys failed than Raul has been acceptable, really only bending when too much was asked of him.

    • Mike HC says:

      Pena is really the only one that has really surprised me with how unproductive he has been. He has been known to get hot and hit homers in bunches, so he is not a lost cause quite yet for the Rays.

    • Heisenberg's Hat says:

      Raul has been OK. He’d look a lot better if Joe stopped trying to get something out of him vs. Lefties. It’s not going to happen.

  11. Manimal says:

    Can you do a stat comparison of Montero in 2012 vs DH production by yankees?

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      In a comment above, Steve (different one) said that Yankee DHs have posted a 318/381/521 triple slash this year.

      Jesus is currently at 260/305/395

  12. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    I like Ibanez, I just close my eyes when a ball is hit his way. In the Winter I advocated for Cody Ross for OF and DH help when Montero was catching.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I hope you’ve peeked at least a tiny bit there, Jose. You missed a couple of decent plays otherwise. :)

  13. mryankee says:

    Raul is a good move I have to give Cashman credit. I do however think he dropped the ball by not adding an elite player. We all saw what Anaheim did in the offseason and the trading deadline. I see no issue in making a strong team stronger. As of right now the Angels look like the best team in baseball. I do know that could all change come October but if you go position by position when fully healthy how many spots are the Yankees superior to the Angels?

    • wilk says:

      never, NEVER trade valuable prospects to add an elite player just to add an elite player. it has to make sense for the team both in the present and the future, and i just don’t think there was an elite guy out there that made sense for this team.

  14. Rich in NJ says:

    I still wish Ibanez wasn’t needed and that they had a young offensive player with upside instead, of which they now have none. IMO, that’s a dumb way to run a team.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      If all works out, Rich, you won’t be saying that in a couple of years. They’re getting there and the guys they hope will be just that are in the lower levels right now.

      • Rich in NJ says:

        I hope that’s right, but I don’t understand how it makes sense to trade the team’s only ML ready potential offensive impact player for pitching instead of another offensive player when it was foreseeable that A-Rod would decline.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I wouldn’t have made the trade either, but I’ve made my peace with it long ago.

        • jjyank says:

          I mean I loved Montero too, but there was plenty of sense in the trade.

          They got Pineda, a 23 year old pitcher under control for 5 years (obviously the injury sucks, but they didn’t know that at the time of the trade). They weren’t sure what position he could stick at, and having a full time DH with againg hitters who need some time at DH too was kind of a logjam.

          • Rich in NJ says:

            Pitchers below the age of 26 are extremely susceptible to injury; that’s why the years before that age are referred to as the injury matrix.

            So trading their only ML ready offensive piece for such a risky asset seems like a risk not worth taking.

            As for their aging hitters causing a logjam at DH, if an aging hitter can’t produce at a high level, he isn’t hitting enough to justify being a DH.

            Keeping him there only compounds a mistake.

            • jjyank says:

              You don’t have to agree with the trade, but there was plenty of sense to it. It’s a nice idea that if an aging hitter doesn’t hit, he shouldn’t be the DH. But what else are they going to do with A-Rod in a couple years?

              I get that pitchers are a bigger injury risk, but the other side of the risk is prospect hype turning into MLB production. Pineda had already proven the ability to be a successful player at the MLB level over the corse of a full season, while Montero had merely a good month in September.

              I’m not even arguing for or against the trade, but there are plenty of pros to go along with the cons.

            • Sweet Dick Willie says:

              The thought process is that an occasional 1/2 day off as DH will help to keep an aging player healthy, and thus more valuable to the team.

              I don’t see the logic, and have never heard anyone connected to the Yankees FO say, that they wanted the DH kept open for slumping players.

              • DM says:

                Both Girardi and Cashman have said it. And the logic isn’t to keep it open for slumping players; it’s to use it to keep players from possibly slumping due to being worn down — or getting hurt and losing them altogether. It’s meant to be preventative as much as reactionary.

        • DM says:

          It’s A-Rod’s decline that would take DH ABs away from Montero. Aging players rotate into more DH time which makes Montero less of a fit rather than more. For Montero to fit here, they needed to believe and commit to the idea of him being the number 1 catcher. I don’t think they did. And based on Seattle’s use of him (as well as their draft pick), I don’t think they do either.

          • Rich in NJ says:

            I think if Montero split time with Martin, both would have benefited (Montero looked decent behind the plate in the recent series v. Seattle and he wasn’t going to catch 100 games in his first full ML season with any team), but as I said, if they felt compelled to trade him even though Romine had back issues last season, it should have been for an offensive player.

            • Sweet Dick Willie says:

              I think if Montero split time with Martin, both would have benefited

              But both are RHB with horrible splits against RHP:

              Jesus 210/247/296

              Martin 164/275/301

              Not sure how sharing time helps those #’s.

            • DM says:

              I could see trading him for a top OF prospect — but I don’t buy the idea of avoiding trades for young pitchers b/c of injury fears — esp if you’re trading such a one dimensional prospect like Montero.

              Also, I know the other dimensions of catching are downplayed around here (b/c they’re not fangraphed?), but I can’t imagine Girardi running an unproven Montero out there to get guys like Hughes, Nova or Kuroda through games — esp from the start of the season when Martin is clearly the starting catcher. It’s not just passed balls and throwing out runners. I’m sure Eric Wedge feels the same way since Jesus loses catching time to a horrible hitting Olivo as well. I can see Jaso robbing some catching time from Montero b/c he hits left-handed, but Olivo?

              And on the Yankees you’d still need a roster spot for a 3rd catcher. You’d never routinely have both your catchers in the game (with Montero DH’g a lot). Here and there, yes — but not regularly.

  15. Rich in NJ says:

    Also, Ibanez has been helped a lot by YS:

    H: .271 .345 .541 .886 (10 HR)
    R: 216 .262 .381 .643 (4 HR

    Someone like Pena may have been helped by similar park effects.

    • DM says:

      Pena probably would’ve been helped by YS — but he got $7.25 mil from Tampa — and he doesn’t play the OF (where the Yankees were weakest depth-wise). Cashman said they had about 2mil in wiggle room after the rest of the off-season. That turned into Ibanez and Chavez.

      • Rich in NJ says:

        For all we know, Damon would have been productive at YS. Granted, Ibanez has filled the DH role given the position they put themselves in, but in the context of largely being a YS-only hitter who can hit HR and not much else.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Good thing he’s playing in Yankee Stadium, then. :)

        • RetroRob says:

          Ibanez is a streaky hitter. His home/road splits are simply a reflection of the timing of his streaks. When dealing with a four-month sample size and 100 or so ABs at home and on the road, home-road splits become meaningless. A full two years, if not three years, is really required before conclusions could be drawn, and we’ll never know that with Ibanez as I don’t see him returning. It’s similar to Damon’s 2009 home/road splits. Much too much was made of it, and my guess was if he played in 2010 they would have normalized.

          I think one thing is clear from watching Ibanez. When he hits the ball, it’s pretty much going out of any park. His power is not product of Yankee Stadium. I do think Damon’s shorter power was helped by YSIII, but even that was heavily streak dependent.

        • DM says:

          I wouldn’t doubt that Damon would be more productive with the Yankees either — but that still leaves the defense and the $ issue. Pena was expensive and can only back up 1st base; Damon eventually dropped his price, but it was too late — and Ibanez played 130+ in the OF in 2011, which Damon had not done in years.

          And hitting HRs and doubles against RH pitching in YS — while being a cheaply signed outfielder — is exactly what they needed.

  16. RetroRob says:

    I was totally in the Damon camp, but I’m happy with what Ibanez has delivered. He’s more than held his own. Now Damon did get off to horrific start in May since he missed all of ST and then basically had a couple of games to tune up. Even a young Damon probably would have struggled with his timing those first few weeks. It’s possible if he signed with the Yankees and had a regular ST that he might have been okay. Yet after a solid June he collapsed again in July, so his time seems to be coming to an end. The .239 BABIP, though, suggests he might have been unlucky, and in his favor, he has basically played as many games in the OF as Ibanez, and his defensive ratings are stronger than Ibanez.

    That said, Ibanez was the right choice. Now if Girardi would just stop having him hit against lefties he’d be totally fine. He’s OPS’ing .815 against righty pitchers. I can accept Raul in non high-leverage situations having an AB against a lefty, but we’ve seen Girardi leave Ibanez in late in the game to face a lefty in critical situations, and it has most likely cost them. That was one of the main selling point to me when it came to Damon. The opposing manager removing a RH’d pitcher to bring in a fringy lefty for the supposed platoon advantage would actually become a strength for the Yankees. Yet that was Damon pre-2012. He’s been poor against all pitchers this year.

    Last, in favor of Ibanez has been a number of very big hits, something OPS+ and WAR pays no attention to and can’t measure. Clutch hitting may not be a repeatable skill, but it can’t ignored when it happens, and like Melky did in 2009, Raul has delivered some very big, booming hits that will not show up in any rating. His been a plus.

    Now let’s figure out who will replace him next year!

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      That should be a fun game.

      McGeehee (that’s going to be a bitch to spell right) is signed for next year, right? I’m guessing that, depending on how he looks, it might mean additional time for Alex at DH? The “DH Slop” role might even be a more marginalized position next season.

      • jjyank says:

        True. Might also mean no Chavez.

      • RetroRob says:

        Yup. Chase Headley may re-enter the picture, but not as Swisher’s replacment, but as someone paired with A-Rod, with the two of them rotating (but playing basically full time) between 3B and DH, with A-Rod maybe getting 2/3rds of the DH time. I’ve tried “talking down” Headley down in a couple threads, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like him. I like him a lot. I just think he have been becoming overvauled when some of the trade packages I saw suggested here were equaling what people wanted to give for Justin Upton.

        As the right price (a good price, but the right price), I’d totally welcome Chase to the Yankees. It would solve a couple of problems. And, sure, we can even play in 20 games or so in the OF, but nothing more. He’s not good out there.

  17. ND Mike says:

    Wait, you mean Cashman knows what he’s doing??

  18. Deep Thoughts says:

    I saw the headline “Yankees got it right with Raul” and immediately assumed you meant Valdes.

    The last and greatest #61.

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