Ibanez excited to join world champs
Veteran inks three-year deal with Phils to supplant Burrell in left
It was about a month-and-a-half into the offseason before Raul Ibanez picked his third team as a Major League outfielder. But the decision to sway in the direction of Philadelphia may have started as soon as October.
During a World Series that saw the Phillies win the second title in the franchise's 126-year history, Ibanez remembers feeling something he'd never felt before when watching another team get to a destination he'd always dreamed about.
On Tuesday, the irony of Ibanez's offseason was sealed when he put on his No. 29 Phillies jersey and talked about how much he's looking forward to playing for the reigning World Series champions.
"I watched [the World Series] on television, and you can feel the energy coming through the television," Ibanez said during his introductory press conference at Citizens Bank Park. "And, as a professional, I can't remember the last time I watched something on television and I got goose bumps. Even when I talk about it now, watching that energy, I can't imagine being a part of it."
He doesn't have to.
On Tuesday morning, Ibanez passed his physical and signed on the dotted line to a three-year, $31.5 million contract that will make him the Phillies' left fielder -- a spot longtime Phillie Pat Burrell held since the 2000 season -- through 2011.
Ibanez will receive a $2 million signing bonus, payable this year, a $6.5 million salary next season and $11.5 million each in 2010 and 2011, according to The Associated Press.
In his 13-year career, Ibanez -- who turns 37 in June -- has never played a single game in Philadelphia.
Nor has he hit in the middle of a lineup with so much firepower.
"Wow, just to be a part of that lineup, I feel honored," Ibanez said about hitting in a batting order with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. "It's a tremendous lineup -- an incredibly potent lineup. That's obvious.
"It's a lineup that can create runs even when you're not particularly swinging the bat well; you're not always going to swing the bat well, collectively as a group. ... I feel blessed to be part of that lineup."
But being a part of that lineup brings up some questions. While there are plenty of dynamic hitters in Philadelphia, Utley, Howard and Ibanez also share the trait of swinging from the left side.
For his career, Ibanez's batting average against right-handers (.293) is significantly higher than against lefties (.268). Such is also the case for Howard (.304 against righties, .231 against lefties) and Utley (.306 against righties, .280 against lefties).
But first-year Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sees no issues with that.
"Yes, we are heavy on the left side, but we're heavy good," Amaro said. "And, in my mind, it's more important to be a good hitter than what side you're hitting from. The fact of the matter is, we're not in a league where there's an overload of left-handed starting pitchers.
"I've said it before, I'll say it again, and I'll continue to say it -- that it's about being good, not what hand you are. It's about being a productive player."
Ibanez has certainly been productive.
In 2008 -- his fifth season with the Mariners and 10th overall -- Ibanez hit .293 while belting 20-plus homers (23) and driving in at least 100 runs (110) for the third straight year. Through 13 Major League seasons, the New York native sports a career .286 batting average with 182 dingers.
But Ibanez was a bit of a late bloomer. In his first five years in the Major Leagues -- before going to the Royals after his first stint with the Mariners -- he never appeared in more than 92 games for Seattle, topping out in 1999 with a mere nine home runs and 27 RBIs.
At that time, Ibanez said it was current Phillies veteran Jamie Moyer -- whom he said teams wanted to turn into a coach before he even turned 30 -- who had a big influence on him.
"When I was in Seattle, Jamie Moyer was one of my mentors, too," Ibanez said. "Him and Edgar [Martinez], those were the guys that I would watch -- everything they did -- and pick their brains and talk to them.
"I used to look at [Moyer], and I would say to myself -- I was like 28 at the time -- 'Hey, if he did it, you can do it.' So he was a huge inspiration to me in my career, knowing that if I stuck with it and I worked hard, good things could happen."
So, when Ibanez was glued to the television after yet another missed opportunity to play in the postseason, he paid special attention to the soft-throwing Moyer, who defied logic, time and pretty much every other force of nature to become a 46-year-old champion.
Ibanez said he wasn't thinking about joining the Phillies at that time, but he's always thought about how it would feel to be at the top of the baseball mountain.
Now, by joining a star-studded lineup and being right in the middle of a clubhouse with players trying to defend something Ibanez has never achieved, he has a better chance than ever.
"I really feel blessed to be here," Ibanez said. "I've never played for a team that won the World Series the year before.
"Last year [with the Mariners], it was a struggle. This year, it's not going to be so. I'm really excited to be here."
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.