Pat Burrell had hoped to make a few more memories with the Phillies next year and beyond.
Instead he learned yesterday his final memories will be his leadoff double off the left-center-field wall in the seventh inning in Game 5 of the World Series - which led to the winning run in the series-clinching game - and leading the World Series championship parade down Broad Street.
If he had to go, there could not be a better way.
The Burrell era officially ended yesterday when sources said the Phillies had agreed to a contract with free-agent leftfielder Raul Ibanez that is believed to be worth three years and $31.5 million. The Phillies would not confirm the agreement because Ibanez must first pass a physical, but an announcement is expected next week.
The Phillies had targeted Ibanez early in the free-agent process, although this week at the winter meetings in Las Vegas they had tried to trade for Chicago Cubs super-utility man Mark DeRosa. But once the Cubs, who were trying to get Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres, pulled the plug on the complex three-team deal, the Phillies stepped up their efforts to get Ibanez.
The Cubs, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Angels all had interest in Ibanez, and for good reason. Ibanez hit .293 with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs last season with the Seattle Mariners. He also has had at least 105 RBIs each of the previous three seasons, and ranks 12th in baseball in RBIs (338) in that three-year span. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are the only outfielders to have more RBIs the last three seasons than Ibanez.
Ibanez put up those numbers hitting in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. He should find Citizens Bank Park much cozier.
Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, who remains with the team as an advisor to new GM Ruben Amaro Jr., knows Ibanez well from his time as Seattle's GM. So does new assistant GM Benny Looper, who just left the Mariners to join the Phillies. Their familiarity could have helped in the pursuit of Ibanez, although once the DeRosa deal died the Phillies considered Ibanez the best outfielder available and wasted no time getting it done.
Ibanez, who has a reputation for a great work ethic, is considered to be a bit more athletic than Burrell, and an upgrade defensively in left field. But he mostly is considered a much more consistent hitter than Burrell, who was prone to prolonged slumps. Ibanez has hit .292 with 155 home runs and 682 RBIs from 2002 through last season. In that time he hit .310 with runners on base, .309 with runners in scoring position and .394 with the bases loaded. Ibanez is 36, but is considered a late bloomer and somebody who does not have a lot of mileage on him, meaning the Phils think he has a few more productive years left in him.
Of course, Burrell hits righthanded. Ibanez is lefthanded.
Manager Charlie Manuel loves to preach the importance of balance in a lineup, but he now finds that his top three RBI men - Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Ibanez - are all lefthanded. That could pose some challenges for Manuel, who will need to find the right lineup.
Manuel couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, but he had some success in the postseason flipping righthanded-hitting Jayson Werth and switch-hitting Shane Victorino in the second and fifth spots. One possibility could be Utley hitting third, Howard hitting fourth, Werth hitting fifth and Ibanez hitting sixth.
Ibanez's arrival means the Phillies can turn their full attention to their pitching staff. Ibanez happens to be close to Moyer, which could help negotiations between the Phillies and the 46-year-old lefthander. Moyer has talked with the Milwaukee Brewers about a potential contract, but it is believed Moyer will be re-signed at some point.
The Phillies also could be close to a contract with free agent righthanded relief pitcher Chan Ho Park.
It remains to be seen where Burrell ends up, although the Tampa Bay Rays have been mentioned as one possibility. Attempts to reach Burrell yesterday were unsuccessful.
He leaves the Phillies ranked third in franchise history with 251 home runs. Only Mike Schmidt (548) and Del Ennis (259) hit more. Burrell also ranked second in strikeouts (1,273), fifth in walks (785), seventh in RBIs (827), and eighth in extra-base hits (518). The first overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft, Burrell signed a six-year, $50 million contract extension in 2003. He never made an all-star team and suffered through a disastrous 2003 season, when he hit .209 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs. But he also averaged 31 homers and 99 RBIs over the past four seasons.
Burrell had made his intentions clear that he wanted to be back although the Phillies did not have serious discussions at any point.
"I think it's been very clear that I want to stay, and they know that," Burrell said before an Eagles game last month at Lincoln Financial Field. "But at the same time, I don't know what the direction of the organization is. Either way, I've got nothing but positive things and thanks to say to the organization for my time here. And obviously, this past couple weeks has been the end of it all. I want to be back, but I don't know what's going to happen."
He found out yesterday. He will be wearing another team's uniform in 2009, but he walks away with some pretty good memories.
Extra bases. The Phillies had until midnight last night to offer contracts to their unsigned players. They did not offer righthander Scott Mathieson a major-league contract but later resigned him to a split contract. The Phils also signed infielder Eric Bruntlett and righthander Clay Condrey to one-year contracts to avoid salary arbitration.
Out of Left Field
Year Team HR RBI BA
2000 Phillies 18 79 .260
2001 Phillies 27 89 .258
2002 Phillies 37 116 .282
2003 Phillies 21 64 .209
2004 Phillies 24 84 .257
2005 Phillies 32 117 .281
2006 Phillies 29 95 .258
2007 Phillies 30 97 .256
2008 Phillies 33 86 .250
Totals 251 827 .257
Year Team HR RBI BA
1997 Mariners 1 4 .154
1998 Mariners 2 12 .255
1999 Mariners 9 27 .258
2000 Mariners 2 15 .229
2001 Royals 13 54 .280
2002 Royals 24 103 .294
2003 Royals 18 90 .294
2004 Mariners 16 62 .304
2005 Mariners 20 89 .280
2006 Mariners 33 123 .289
2007 Mariners 21 105 .291
2008 Mariners 23 110 .293
Totals 182 794 .286
Is this three-year, $30 million free-agent deal with leftfielder Raul Ibanez good for the Phillies?
To vote, go to www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies_zone/