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When the Yankees finished up the deal sending A.J. Burnett and a portion of his remaining salary to the Pirates, you knew they were going to bring in a left-handed bat to play designated hitter.
It was about the only hole left open on the roster as spring training got underway and it was a hole that the team said it could not fill until it slashed a little payroll. There were several names bandied about as possibilities for the role, but the Yankees settled on former Phillie Raul Ibanez.
Ibanez agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million deal (with incentives that can push the total closer to $4 million) with the team on Monday and is expected to join the team on Thursday, pending a physical.
Ibanez is expected to play against right-handed pitchers, at least when the team isn't looking to spell a regular with a day as a designated hitter.
In 2011, Ibanez posted a .747 OPS, including a putrid .307 on-base percentage, against righties with 16 home runs, providing his only real contribution with the bat. Should Ibanez ever get a plate appearance against a lefty, you can pretty much fast forward to the next hitter because it will end with an out.
At 40, it isn't likely that Ibanez is going to have a major bounceback season. Even with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium, Ibanez is going to have minimal impact on the Yankees' chances of winning the World Series.
There were other choices for the role, including Johnny Damon, and the Yankees could have even sought to bring Jorge Posada back. Posada was better against righties than Ibanez was last season and it's not like either one is going to be asked to play against lefties.
Figuring out the reasons why Ibanez was the choice isn't too difficult. He's cheaper than either of the former Yankees, a lot less likely to make a stink about playing time and there's been talk that the Yanks also like the fact that he's capable of playing the field.
Should Ibanez ever actually find himself in the field, it is best to assume that any other Yankee was injured in a bus accident on the way to the stadium. If he isn't the worst defensive outfielder in the league, he's in the bottom two and that means that his "ability" to play the field really doesn't matter.
If the Yankees really cared about that skill set, they would have signed a fifth outfielder who can actually make a defensive difference if they want to pull Nick Swisher late in games. Eric Chavez is expected to re-sign with the team in the next couple of days, giving the team a lefty bat to use as part of the DH answer and making Ibanez irrelevant unless he suddenly starts stroking at previous levels.
The upside of all this is that it probably won't amount to anything in the Yankees' push for the division, AL pennant or World Series title. If the Yankees pitching comes through and the key lineup pieces are healthy, the designated hitter isn't going to decide much of anything about the result of the season.
That doesn't make it any easier to understand the rationale for adding Ibanez, but it will make it much easier to shrug your shoulders if the whole thing doesn't work out.