Pirates Trade Target: Raul Ibanez, Veteran Presence, Powerful Production Too


When searching for dream scenarios of possible players the Pittsburgh Pirates might want to add at the trade deadline, we had a few considerations.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have talked about the importance of clubhouse chemistry throughout their successful 2013 season.  Especially when questions about why Brandon Inge is still on the roster.

We aren’t a big fan of adding a veteran to add a veteran, so take this post for what it is I guess.  If the veteran presence thing is important to the decision makers on Federal Street, we will play along.

So putting on our Neal Huntington hat, we came up with Raul Ibanez.  Why?  We wanted someone who was a veteran, could still hit, could play right field, could still hit, someone who might come cheap, could still hit, had a strong background as a player that might rub off on Travis Snider, could still hit both lefties and righties.

Ibanez fits that mold.  The streaks are high and low, but when they are high his production would takeover PNC Park:  Ibanez is batting .292 (21 for 72) with a .667 sluging percentage, 1.004 OPS, one double, one triple, 10 runs and 15 RBI in his last 18 games. He had a .579 slugging percentage and 22 RBI in 27 June games.

Brandon Inge isn’t taking over PNC Park anytime soon.

The Pirates would have to manuever a bit, but think about it.  If something awful were to happen don’t the Bucs have enough depth in the infield now with Clint Barmes being able to play multiple positions, Jordy Mercer too.  I mean we have to think that Barmes has taken some balls at second now, Mercer still gets a few at third and second.  It would be enough to get by short term, and it’s enough reason to think that surely someone besides most of Pittsburgh thinks the roster could be improved if Inge wasn’t on it.

Jose Tabata is likely to be recalled today and will get some at-bats against left-handers especially.  The Pirates can’t be pleased with the production from right field.  So it could come down to how well Tabata plays over the next few weeks.

But what about the chemistry????

We never were really good at chemistry.  We enjoyed the labs, but that’s about where it ended for us.  Chemistry is tricky we hear.  But to think that the Bucs coaches and players enjoy watching Inge struggle mightily at the plate and then think that same player has any clout in the clubhouse…that’s horseshit.

Inge was brought in for his veteran presence.  He also has a reputation for having a good glove, so he has the ability to backup Pedro Alvarez at third base which after the month of April hasn’t been even considered.  The one thing Inge does still possess is his athletic ability so he has also played a few other positions for the Bucs this season.  But while his veteran-osity hasn’t been questioned, his bat has.

Inge is hitting .171 against right handers.  In his last ten games, he is hitting .125.  On the season, Inge is hovering two ticks above the Mendoza line.  We could keep piling on, but you get the idea.

At some point in the next few weeks, Inge has to improve his offense or the roster doesn’t make much sense with a player producing so little.

In a similar veteran presence move last December, the Seattle Mariners officially signed Raul  Ibanez to a one-year deal.  It was worth 2.75 million guaranteed with another 1.25 mill tossed in for performance bonuses.

Inge didn’t get anything like that deal, but it’s hard to aruge that the deal has been a steal for the Mariners.  Watching Ibanez hit his 18th bomb of the year against the Pirates recently showed that.  The powerful Ibanez now has 20 bombs which puts the 41-year-old in some elite company.

He’s tied for sixth all-time among history’s single-season home run leaders age 41 and older.

"“He’s the one guy who has been playing every day and not just DHing, but playing. He’s an animal, this guy, really. His body, you look at his shape and discipline. People might get on me for playing him against left-handers, but he does damage. I don’t care what his average is, he does damage against left-handers,” said his skipper Eric Wedge."

Ibanez didn’t hit a single home run against a southpaw last year, so many thought of him as a platoon option only.  But he’s hit six of his 20 bombs against lefties this year, he’s slugging higher against left-handed pitching than he is against right handers and his OPS against southpaws is .851.

There is certainly a chance that Ibanez would slump coming back to the NL.  ZoowithRoy captured it very well here.

In fact, his performance in April is quite Ingesque, but the 1.031 OPS in May is sexy (especially considering the OPS by the Pirates RF this year).  Those ten bombs are eye popping too.   Since 2009, when he was a 37-years old,  Ibanez has reached the 20-homer mark every other year.

2009 – 34 homers

2010 – 16 homers

2011 – 20 homers

2012 – 19 homers

2013 – 20 homers

Another thing to consider is the veteran postseason experience.  Ibanez has hit six homers in 44 postseason games.

It’s not certain how well Ibanez could play in right field, having primarily been a left-fielder most of his career, but his defense could be offset by some crafty positioning and being put in right against the correct opponent.  Hell, if he keeps hitting, his bat would keep him in the lineup.

Ibanez is also a solid pinch hitter, in fact, he lead the American League last season at a .325 clip.  The Bucs are hitting .195 in PH situations this year.

It’s hard to imagine the fans of the 36-47 Mariners being happy about one of the best off season acquistions in baseball being moved, but it’s also hard to imagine Ibanez not wanting to get one more crack at being a winner.  That’s not happening in Seattle.

It could in Pittsburgh.