Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
December 12, 2008 10:25 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
When I spoke with Raul Ibanez about his pending free agency with about a week to go in the 2008 season, he told me a three-year deal at roughly $10 million per annum was a target. Ibanez felt he was in top physical condition despite his age and noted that a late start to his major league playing career likely meant he could still perform for a few years more than someone else approaching their late 30s.
Most of all, he wanted those three years to be spent with a contender. Not a rebuilding team. He did not want to go through another year like 2008.
Ibanez got both those wishes and then some. By landing with the Philadelphia Phillies for three years, $30 million, pending a physical (which he'll pass with flying colors), he also gets to stay one quick airplane hop away from his home in Miami. It makes a difference, believe me. Not just for him, but also for his family when they want to fly up to stay with him. Playing on the West Coast does take a physical toll on players. I've yet to hear one tell me it's a nonissue. As a writer who has worked on both coasts, travelling to cover ball clubs, I can tell you, it's very much an issue.
I'm not shocked Ibanez signed right now. The Angels were interested in him, but had let him know they were stuck in a holding pattern until Mark Teixeira figures out what he wants to do.
Waiting could have helped Ibanez, drumming up more competition. Or, it could have hurt him had he allowed others to set the market. When I talked to a top official with the Cubs (the one who laughed at that rumored Carlos Silva-Kosuke Fukudome swap) the other day, he told me his team wasn't all that interested in Ibanez any more because of the three-year deal thing and concerns about whether he could play right field for them (which is what the Cubs needed). He wasn't sure Ibanez would get a three-year deal the way the market was headed.
Had someone else signed for much lower numbers than expected, Ibanez might have seen dollars and guaranteed years go out the window.
Instead, he took the deal he wanted when he got it. Like M's GM Jack Zduriencik does. He didn't try to leverage the perfect offer out of the Phillies. When they hit his magic target, he took it. Likely, the Angels' interest is what got Ibanez that three-year offer for the cash he'd envisioned. Philadelphia wanted him and knew what ballpark their offer had to be in to get a quick signing. Had they waited, the Angels could have stepped in next week and started a bidding war. Now, neither side has to worry.
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