In the offseason free agent market, there were two teams with great interest in right fielder Raul Ibanez. Today one team is thankful for acquiring the veteran, and the other wishes they had him.
The Phillies signed Ibanez to a deal, and the Chicago Cubs were forced to find another option—so they made the decision that was supposed to help out more and signed Milton Bradley.
It has not gone exactly to plan for the Cubbies, as Bradley has had a rough season on the field, on the bench, and at the plate.
Bradley was thought to give the offense a lift for a team that many felt could make a run at the National League pennant and possibly the World Series (myself not included in either category). To date Bradley is hitting a woeful .238 (.201 against right-handed pitching) with just 29 runs scored and 21 runs batted in.
Pouring salt on the wounds of the Chicago faithful, Ibanez has had such a successful season so far that he earned his first career All-Star berth and went as a starter.
Ibanez is hitting .310 (.311 against right-handed pitching) with 58 runs scored, 68 runs batted in, and a team-leading 25 home runs. Let me repeat that last part: team-leading 25 home runs on a team that has Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Former manager for Ibanez and current Cubs skipper Lou Piniella is a fan of Ibanez:
"'He can hit. He's a very professional, productive hitter,' Piniella said. 'And he's doing it. This is a nice ballpark for him, but you've still got to hit, and he's hit. He's having an MVP-type season for the Phillies right now.'"—Chicago Sun-Times
Unfortunately for the Cubs, they made the decision to walk away from Ibanez in the free agent season due to his age:
"The Cubs didn't get far down the road with Ibanez in the offseason. They hesitated over his age for a multi-year deal (Ibanez turned 37 last month) and whether the left fielder could handle right field at Wrigley Field."—Chicago Sun-Times
What turned out to be a lost opportunity for the Cubs, and countless other teams, has been a blessing for the Phillies. Ibanez replaced local favorite Pat Burrell in right field, and many Phillies fans had the same concerns the Cubs had with Ibanez: age.
Throw in the fact that Burrell signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for considerably less than Ibanez, and Phillies fans were initially asking what the point was.
Ibanez has more than won over the fans. Asked for his thoughts on the possibility that he could have been with the Cubs, Ibanez confirms he made the right decision.
''I'm just happy to be a Phillie,'' he said.
And Phillies fans are happy he is in Philadelphia instead of Chicago.
Phillies' Ibanez still has what Cubs want—Chicago Sun-Times