Raul Ibanez’s one-year contract with the Yankees is worth just $1 million in guaranteed money, but the bigger issue is that he’s 40 years old and coming off a terrible season in which he hit .245 with a .289 on-base percentage and .419 slugging percentage in 144 games.
Within that awful overall performance was some decent work versus right-handed pitching, against whom Ibanez hit .256 with a .307 on-base percentage and .440 slugging percentage. Of course, that’s hardly good for someone who is now a designated hitter and Ibanez also batted just .211 with a .232 OBP and .353 SLG off lefties.
So–as our own D.J. Short just asked on Twitter–if the Yankees were willing to hand the DH spot over to an old, rapidly declining hitter who posted decent numbers versus righties and terrible numbers versus lefties last season, why not just re-sign Jorge Posada (who retired because the Yankees weren’t interested)?
Because for as much criticism as Posada took in what turned out to be his final season, he dramatically out-hit Ibanez against right-handed pitching and the Yankees are going to use Andruw Jones as their DH versus left-handed pitching anyway. Last season Posada hit .269 with an .814 OPS off righties, compared to .256 with a .747 OPS for Ibanez.
Ibanez may be a slightly better fit for the roster because he can play the outfield, but he certainly can’t play it anything but very poorly and, if playing a position very badly counts as versatility then Posada’s catching has similar value. Whatever the case, the Yankees said goodbye to a 41-year-old, mediocre designated hitter who played his entire 17-year career in New York and signed a 40-year-old, mediocre designated hitter who might actually be worse for the role.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.