FanPost

The Case for Rauuuuuuuuuul

I joked last week that the Phillies should bring back Raul Ibanez to platoon in left field. The more I've thought about it, he might be the Phillies best option.

Aside from forfeiting their first round draft pick to sign Nick Swisher, the rumors are that the Phillies' external options for a corner outfielder are signing Cody Ross to a multi-year deal or trading for Alfonso Soriano. It's probably safe to assume that kind of money or prospects that would be invested in either Ross or Soriano would guarantee either player a starting job against both left and right handed pitchers. But what if the Phillies could approximate Ross or Soriano's production for a fraction of the cost?

Here are 2012 and career wRC+ for Ross and Soriano:

2012 wRC+

Career wRC+

Ross

113

106

Soriano

116

112

Here are the same numbers for John Mayberry against left-handed pitchers:

2012 wRC+ v. L

Career wRC+ v. L

Mayberry

116

133

So if the Phillies can find a cheap outfielder who can hit right-handed pitching about 15% better than average, they can equal or surpass Ross or Soriano's production without the expensive commitment.

Here are is the same chart for the remaining free agent left-handed outfielders against RHP:

2012 wRC+ v. R

Career wRC+ v. R

Bobby Abreu

96

136

Rick Ankiel

93

101

Endy Chavez

42

76

Johnny Damon

75

113

Kosuke Fukudome

37

106

Raul Ibanez

115

122

Don Kelly

53

76

Scott Podsednik

74

92

Grady Sizemore

105

135

Ryan Sweeney

90

103

and for reference, Laynce Nix and Nate Schierholtz:

2012 wRC+ v. R

Career wRC+ v. R

Nix

92

89

Schierholtz

126

96

So Schierholtz would have been an ok option. If only the Phillies would have had a way to get him...

But since that ship has sailed, the best remaining options to upgrade from Nix are Sizemore and Ibanez. Sizemore, however, will be out until at least mid-season recovering from microfracture knee surgery.

That leaves Raul, and he's not a bad option. The main reason is the cost; a Mayberry/Ibanez platoon could cost less than $2 million, would be for only one year, and wouldn't cost any prospects. And Ibanez did play 545 innings in left field for the Yankees in 2012, roughly a third of the total innings, with a UZR/150 of 11.8. While the positive fielding number is almost certainly a fluke, it at least suggests that the -21.8 UZR/150 Raul put up with the Phillies in 2011 was also somewhat fluky when compared to his career number that is just slightly negative.

The other reason for signing Raul is that a Raulberry platoon wouldn't necessarily block Darin Ruf. If Ruf struggles in spring training, he can be sent to Lehigh Valley for more work. If he hits well in March and shows himself to be a competent outfielder, he can replace Mayberry as the right-handed half of the platoon to start the season and can take over more and more at-bats against right-handed pitching as the year goes on.

So bringing back Raul on a one year contract has the advantage of potentially giving the Phillies production equal to what they could get with a bigger free agent or trade acquisition, it saves their first round draft pick, and it gives them the flexibility to make adjustments during the season if it doesn't work.

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