Raul Ibanez was signed to a one year contract in the off-season to be the left handed portion of the Yankees DH platoon. The point of the signing for Ibanez was to join a Yankees team that looks headed for the post-season once again, while the point of the signing for the Yankees was to add a bat that can hit right handed pitching, and can not look totally lost in the outfield while doing so. (This I do not agree with)
There are rumors swirling that the Yankees chose Ibanez over Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui because Ibanez has no previous ties to the Yankees, so the Yankees will not have to deal with fan outrage if the team decides to cut Ibanez at any point.
Despite these rumors, which very well could be true, the Yankees are not about to cut Ibanez just yet. Let's take a look at the reasons why.
For the past three seasons (including this one) Raul Ibanez has been awful in Spring Training. In 2010 Ibanez hit a split of .130/.266/.241, then followed that campaign with a split of .253/.300/.453. This season Ibanez is 3-40, equaling a split of .075/.119/.175. This season is certainly worse than the previous two, but looking at Ibanez' recent past, the Yankees very likely will give Ibanez some time in the regular season to work his problems out.
Ibanez' career norm is to start hitting early, as his career April OBP is .343, slightly higher than his overall career OBP of .342. The lack of a correlation between a poor Spring Training and April performance for Ibanez shows that Ibanez could start hitting once the season gets started, so the Yankees have no need to cut him yet.
Randy Winn is a name that comes to mind when discussing Raul Ibanez. Winn "won" a spot in the Yankees outfield in 2010, despite a stat line of .224/.255/.265 in Spring Training. Much like Ibanez this Spring Training, Winn looked completely lost at the plate, the stats showed that, but the Yankees saw a "veteran presence" and decided to give the veteran outfielder a chance in the regular season to work his struggles out. Winn never figured out his struggles, was released, and would later retire after a short stint with the St. Louis Cardinals.
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I am a huge fan of Justin Maxwell, but Maxwell has not hit right handed pitching well in his short major league career. Maxwell's split instead shows that he favors facing left handed pitching, as his OBP against lefties is .361, while vs. righties it is .276.
The main question, one that I cannot answer, is will the Yankees look past the career stats and look at Maxwell's Spring Training campaign? Maxwell's OBP vs. righties is an outstanding .409 this Spring Training.
Outside of Maxwell, Ibanez' main competition was expected to be Russell Branyan, but Branyan has not played this Spring Training yet, so he is not exactly in the running to win the job over Ibanez.
As of now it appears Raul Ibanez will make the Yankees opening day roster, but there are certainly enough reasons for me to feel that he should not be on the roster. I think Justin Maxwell should get the job over Ibanez, but the reasons listed above will be used as explanation for the Yankees giving the job to Ibanez.
What do you think? Should Ibanez be on the roster?