The Yankees have reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with Raul Ibanez for $1.1 million. That's significantly less than Ibanez had been earning in recent seasons with the Phillies, and there's a reason for that: Ibanez, who will turn 40 in June, had an unimpressive slash line of .245/.289/.419 last season, and though he hit twenty homers, his best years are behind him. His numbers are better against righties, and so the Yankees can use a designated hitter platoon of Ibanez and Andruw Jones when an everyday player isn't given a so-called half-day off.
Mark Feinsand explains that the Yankees had considered other veterans like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui for the roster spot, but that Ibanez got the nod because he's stronger defensively and could be used in the outfield if one of the team's starters there were to get hurt. Without saying Ibanez's name, Brian Cashman said yesterday what exactly he was looking for. From the LoHud Yankees Blog:
“The preference would be to find someone from the left side that can do some damage against right-handed pitching,” Cashman said. “But at the same time, in the event we have injuries that hit in season, (I’m looking for a player) that my manager could put out for defense. I’m not saying a quality defender, I’m saying someone that, for an extended period of time, can still provide some kind of defensive component to protect us in the event we have injuries as we move forward. That would be the criteria we’re looking at.”
Poor Damon and Matsui: Both are lefty-hitting designated hitters, and in general terms, that's what the Yankees were looking for. But neither had much of a chance if Cashman was factoring in defense when considering his DH options, even if only to protect the team in case of an injury. The bar for defense doesn't seem to have been set especially high here — it was somewhere below "quality defender" — but Matsui and Damon fell short nonetheless.