2014 MLB Free Agent Profile: Raul Ibanez

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 41-year-old outfielder hit 29 homers in 2013. Does he make sense for the Mets?

For almost a decade, Raul Ibanez was one of the most underrated players in baseball. From 2001-2008 with the Kansas City Royals and then the Seattle Mariners, Ibanez posted a wRC+ of 114 or better seven times.

After the 2008 season, Ibanez signed a three-year, $31.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ibanez got off to the best start of his career in 2009, posting a .309/.367/.649 line in the first half with 22 homers in 259 at-bats. The second half saw him decline sharply, as he hit just .232/.326/.448 with 12 homers in 241 at-bats.

In his next two years with the Phillies he hit just .275/.349/.444 in 2010 and an unsightly .245/.289/.419 in 2011. Ibanez signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the New York Yankees for 2012. Adjusted for Yankee Stadium, Ibanez's .240/.308/.453 only amounted to a 102 wRC+. Ibanez played a huge role for the Yankees during the postseason, as he hit a game-tying and game-winning homer in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, and hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning off of Jose Valverde in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, a game the Yankees would go on to lose.

Embarking on his third tour of duty with the Mariners (he was drafted by the team in 1992), Ibanez rebounded to hit .242/.306/.487 with 29 homers and a 117 wRC+.

Ibanez has a career 117 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers and had posted an .800 OPS or higher against them every year from 2001 through 2012. However, he has a career .262/.314/.426 line against left-handed pitchers and while his numbers against them this year were good (121 wRC+, .802 OPS), he had an OPS under .600 against them the two previous years.

The bigger issue for Ibanez at this point is his defense. Never a particularly good defender, his defense has fallen off a cliff the last few years, as he posted a UZR/150 of -22.1 in 2011 and -25.9 in 2013 while playing left field. Oddly enough, he graded out positively defensively in 2012. Given his other defensive numbers since 2007, the 2012 line can be dismissed as a fluke fairly easily.

One can't be entirely trusting of defensive metrics, but there is visual evidence to support the numbers.

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(Credit to Lookout Landing for these.)

The cost

While Ibanez is still a good hitter, he offers little besides power at this point in his career. Whatever value Ibanez provides with his bat is almost completely negated by his inability to play defense. He should nevertheless should draw some interest, but given that he can only reasonably function as a designated hitter, he might remain unsigned until the waning days of the offseason. Ultimately, Ibanez should get something similar to the one-year, $2.75 million contract he received from the Mariners last offseason.

The fit

In terms of offensive production, Ibanez is a good bet to provide more value in left field than Eric Young Jr. In terms of total value to the Mets in 2014, Ibanez is a terrible fit. The Mets know all too well about the dangers of playing a maladroit defender in the outfield, and Ibanez simply isn't good enough at the plate anymore to mask his defensive woes. He also would provide little value off the bench, as he can't play any position besides the outfield. The Mets need to aim higher, and if Ibanez is a starting outfielder for the Mets in 2014 it will say more about the team's finances than their belief in his skills.

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