The Raul Ibanez Effect: Will Aging Outfielder's Contract Influence Free Agency?

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The Raul Ibanez Effect: Will Aging Outfielder's Contract Influence Free Agency?
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Last offseason, the Phillies surprised many baseball people by signing Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract worth $31.5 million.

The signing itself was not surprising (unless you were a huge Pat Burrell fan), but the number of years was, with the Phillies willing to give the 36-year-old Ibanez a three-year contract.

So far, the results have been great. The Phillies are back in the playoffs for the third straight season, and Ibanez, at age 37, has put up some of the best numbers of his career (.274, 34 HR, 93 RBI).

As we look forward to the 2009 offseason, I can't help but wonder if the Ibanez contract will become the standard for aging but still productive hitters. Instead of looking for one or two years when the player is clearly past his prime, will agents start looking to get three-year deals like the one Ibanez got?

This discussion is interesting because there are a number of hitters who will be free agents this offseason that fit the "aging but still productive mold": Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu.

While all those guys are still productive hitters and pretty bad defensive players (like Ibanez), I can only see one of those guys nabbing a three-year deal— Bobby Abreu.

No, it's not just because he's been putting up stellar numbers this season. It's also because he and Ibanez share a similar quality that I know teams value (and sometimes overvalue): consistency.

Entering last offseason, Raul Ibanez had played in at least 149 games in every season dating back to 2005 and was showing no signs of breaking down anytime soon. Like Ibanez, Abreu is remarkably consistent. Bobby Abreu has not played in fewer than 150 games in ANY SEASON SINCE 1998. That level of consistency is amazing.

I fully expect Abreu to be paid handsomely this summer. Yes, he's 35 years old and will be 36 in March. But is a three-year deal out of the question? Absolutely not.

Thoughts?

(Jorge Says No! on Facebook)

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