Could Raul Ibanez be in left field for the Phillies next season?
There are indications inside the organization that the Phillies are interested in Ibanez, a free agent leftfielder from the Seattle Mariners. Ibanez hit .293 with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs last season, and has had at least 21 homers and 105 RBIs in each of the previous three seasons. But what is interesting about Ibanez is that he hits lefthanded. That would seem to work against manager Charlie Manuel's vision of a balanced lineup with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard also lefthanded hitters.
But that doesn't scare off the Phillies because Ibanez hit .305 last season against lefthanders compared to .288 against righthanders. There it a lot of talk about how the Phillies must have another righthanded bat in their lineup, but the Phillies would rather have Ibanez, who hits lefthanded, than a less productive hitter who is righthanded just because he is righthanded.
There is another obvious connection with Ibanez, too. Pat Gillick, who is an advisor to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., is a former GM with the Mariners, and new assistant general manager Benny Looper just came from Seattle. So both Gillick and Looper know Ibanez well.
The Phillies have spoken with Pat Burrell's agents about a potential return, but they remain willing to explore other options before they get serious with him. The sense I get when talking about Ibanez is that the Phillies simply are exploring those options. I'm not sure how serious they are about him, but he is interesting for the reasons listed above.
The Phillies remain hopeful they will re-sign lefthander Jamie Moyer. The fact the sides haven't yet come to an agreement shouldn't cause concern. Moyers' agent has been unavailable since last week, and Moyer is taking care of family matters this week.
The Phillies have some interest in free agent righthander Juan Cruz (4-0, 2.61 ERA in 57 appearances), although he is a Type A free agent. If the Phillies signed him before Dec. 1 or if the Arizona Diamondbacks offered him salary arbitration, the Phillies would have to forfeit their first-round draft pick.
Ibanez also is a Type A free agent, so the Phillies might be in a situation where they wait to see which players are offered arbitration and which ones aren't and proceed from there.
The Phillies completed their coaching interviews: Rich Donnelly, Tim Bogar and Pete Mackanin. They could make a hire before the end of the week.