Late last night, the Phillies apparently signed Raul Ibanez to a 3 year/$30 million dollar contract. On paper, this looks like a great deal.
Ibanez is a lock to hit 20-30 HRs with at least 100 RBI and roughly a .290 batting average. He can rake against both lefites and righties (.288 vs. RHP in 2008, .305 vs. LHP in 2008) so it will not be a problem having him hit fifth or sixth behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Having a lefty dominant lineup is not a problem when all the lefties can flat out rake.
Make no mistake about it, this is a fantastic signing. The Phillies offense, which was pretty darn good in 2008, now has the potential to be a juggernaut, especially at Great American Ballpark. Furthermore, Ibanez is a certain upgrade over Pat Burrell. Even though he had some great spurts during his tenure with the Phils, Burrell was never able to provide the consistent production that Ibanez will give the Phillies. Utley and Howard will put up better numbers because of it.
In addition, the Phillies signed Ibanez to a very reasonable contract. Even though he is 36 years old, Ibanez has shown no signs of decline to date and has actually put up the best numbers of his career over the past three seasons. While he could start to decline as he gets closer to 40, this deal should definitely pay off over the first year or two of the deal.
I don't see the downside of this deal for the Phillies, who now look like strong competitors to win their third straight NL East title. Kudos to GM Ruben Amaro Jr for making this move; the Phillies are a much stronger team with Ibanez on board.
(Note: Take a look at my free agent projection for Ibanez a month back. You might find some additional insight there. And again, my projection was only $3 million dollars off! Damn you, economy!)