(Ed. Note: I hereby acknowledge @LoganDobson for the headline suggestion.)
One of the real perks (or drawbacks, depending on how much you like your stupid statements dredged up from the past... yeah really, Adam Dunn) of writing for an older, more established site like ours is the ability to look back and get an in-the-moment look at how certain players did throughout their tenure in Philadelphia.
At the start, I'm not conceding that Raul Ibanez is finished in Philadelphia; in light of the corner outfield and Ryan Howard situations, it's not inconceivable that the team could bring him back on a one year deal to platoon or be a bench bat of sorts. I don't like the idea, but it's possible.
Raul Ibanez and The Good Phight had a funny history. If you look at that first link, the signing was almost universally reviled, and for reasons that mostly came to fruition -- if you sign a guy in his mid 30s to multi-year deal, he'll be in his late 30s at the end of the deal, and will be extremely unlikely to be very productive. And that happened.
But as we all remember, Ibanez busted out of the gates in 2009 like a maniac, immediately became RAUUUULLLLL and was a folk hero of sorts. We had a little egg on our faces and responded accordingly.
Then the stupid, baseless, borderline defamatory steroid accusations started to fly. As our own Mr. Cohen correctly pointed out, that early 2009 hot streak was not out of the ordinary for Ibanez, and he had in fact had more productive streaks throughout his career.
After his early 2009 hot streak came to an end with an injury, Ibanez settled into his weird pattern of blazing hot and Arctic cold streaks, despite having been brought in to be a more "consistent" hitter than the abandoned Pat Burrell. Overall, though, Ibanez became the player that most analysts expected him to be in light of his contract and age -- a late bloomer in a notable decline.
Per Fangraphs, Ibanez provided $18.1 million in "value" over the life of his $31.5 million contract. Not great, but not a disaster.
It is hard to analyze Ibanez in context because there have really been very few players like him -- late bloomers who play regularly despite overall weak offensive output. In the post-Intergration (1947) era, there was been just 31 players who have accumulated 502 or more plate appearances in a single season at age 39. Ibanez is one of them.
A couple things about this list (sorted by adjusted OPS+):
1. Holy crap Hall of Famers. I count no fewer than 20 players who are already in the Hall, will be in the Hall, or would be in the Hall but for PED abuse and/or gambling shenanigans, and about four or five borderline cases. It's not that hard to figure out: Hall of Famers have other-worldly peaks, so good that their decline seasons are still very productive.
2. Barry Bonds' 2004 obviously sticks out, and there are a few other "Steroid Era" seasons on the list, but I don't see a strong spike in "Steroid Era" seasons on this list. Although there is Rafael Palmeiro...
We also see just how unproductive Ibanez was compared to his fellow 39 year olds; the only lower OPS+ on the list belonged to defensive specialist and shortstop Luis Aparicio, whose career OPS+ was 82.
Also hey, Pete Rose in 1980, although Rose would rebound to a fine 119 OPS+ in the strike-shortened 1981 season.
I'm not totally sure where I'm going with this, other than that 39 year old starting positions players are generally really special, and Ibanez just wasn't. On the other hand, it's pretty remarkable that he was almost able to hang with these guys, and hit 20 home runs.
Who knows what Ibanez would have done with regular playing time early in his career?
On a subjective note, despite my ambivalence about his arrival in Philadelphia, I really came to admire and respect Ibanez as a person over the last three years, and I wish him all the best going forward. A very hard worker and at the center of some pretty awesome Phillies memories.
Be well, Raul.