Raul Ibanez heads back to Seattle, what’s next for Yankees at DH?


The New York Yankees slow and steady approach has prevented another potential signing, this time 2012 postseason hero Raul Ibanez, who is returning to Seattle to complete a career trifecta with the Mariners.

Ibanez, after one season in the Bronx, apparently got too itchy to sign a deal and accepted a one-year $2.75 million offer, with up to $1.25 million in incentives. Ibanez, 40, will also see more time in the Seattle lineup as an outfielder than he would have with the Yankees.

So, the incredibly unorthodox offseason (based on their history, not their intentions for the future) continues for the Yankees. The Yankees did show interest in Ibanez, but the search for a right-handed hitting outfielder/DH has presumably consumed general manager Brian Cashman. It is uncertain if the Yankees made an offer to Ibanez at this point.

Who’s left, or right?

So, the Yankees will continue to rummage through the trade market and free agent options. Losing Ibanez is not exactly the end of the Yankees’ existence, but he would have been a nice piece to have, especially if he was able to stick one role as a left-handed hitting DH.

The Yankees have been linked to Scott Hairston (free agent), Vernon Wells (via trade with L.A. Angels) and Jeff Baker (FA) according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman via Twitter. Hairston has been on the Yankees radar for a while now, but he is looking for a mulityear deal. Wells is an extra outfielder in Los Angeles and the Angels could pay a majority of his salary in a move, but he’s been on the downswing for the last couple seasons and shows nothing more against southpaws to make a move enticing. Baker is an interesting mention by Heyman as he does not provide the pop that the Yankees would covet from the right-handed option.

Jason Kubel is coming off a career-high 30 home runs. Would the Yankees have any interest in trading for the outfielder/DH? (image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

What about Kubel?

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million deal Saturday again crowding up their outfield after trading Chris Young earlier in the offseason made some room. Justin Upton is the big name on the D’backs roster, but speculation is that Jason Kubel could be the one on the move now with Ross aboard.

Kubel, who will turn 31 in May, is a lefty outfielder/DH with plenty of power. He hit a career-high 30 home runs in 2012, with a slash line of .253/.327/.833. Against right-handed pitching he hit 23 homers and his slash line improved to .264/.348/.540. He could have a field day in Yankee Stadium.

Kubel is set to make $7.5 million in 2013, but he has a mutual option for the same amount in 2014. So, his contract terms would not keep the Yankees from being interested since they could decline the option and not affect their desire to stay below the competitive balance tax threshold for 2014. Oh, the MADcap (one of our reader’s references to the tax), how we love thee.

That said, the Yankees need for a right-handed bat precedes the luxury of adding Kubel, and it is uncertain what the D’backs would want in return. The Yankees would be reluctant to trade anything of true value for a one-year option.

Digging deep or go farming?

I wrote on Dec. 13 that the Yankees were prioritizing a right-handed hitting outfield bat and suggested a bunch of names that were more or less last minute options — Carlos Lee, Juan Rivera and Delmon Young. You can check out that post here.

I also suggested that the Yankees could check out Melky Mesa or Ronnier Mustelier from the system for right-handed help. Now they could extend the search on the farm to the left side with Ibanez leaving.

Chris Dickerson is on the 40-man roster and could be an intriguing option. He was with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for most of the 2012 season, but saw some time with the big club the last two seasons as well. Last season, in 315 plate appearances with SWB, Dickerson went .316/.417/.515 with 24 doubles, seven home runs and 17 stolen bases. In 585 career major league plate appearances with the Yankees and Cincinnati Reds before them, Dickerson owns a .266/.352./.407 slash line. He hits right-handed pitching to the tune of .269/.354/.424 in 505 MLB plate appearances.

A long-shot option would be Zoilo Almonte, who is probably better suited to spend a season with Triple-A Scranton. Almonte is a switch-hitter with a balance of power and speed (21 HR and 15 SB in 2012 with Double-A Trenton). The lack of experience makes the likelihood that he’d be able to make the jump to the majors slim.

What about Nunez?

The Yankees could use Eduardo Nunez as a utility/DH type, especially with his bat being worth more than his fielding. Though, in my opinion, Nunez is not as good with the stick as he’s often made out to be. A career line of .272/.318/.384 in 494 plate appearances does not scream, “give him more at-bats.” Admittedly, against lefties, he is better, .298/.332/.436 in a little more than 200 PA. But, the sample is small, and there is nothing in his minor league profile to suggest there’s something more here.

In just under 3,000 plate appearances in his minor league career, Nunez sits at .271/.314/.365. Nunez can run, but this is not something the Yankees need with Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki playing daily. Many cite Nunez’s potential if given more at-bats but I’m not seeing it. I think some like his bat as much as they do because he is awful in the field. Nunez is a utility guy in my view and nothing more.

What do you think? Who can fill the DH void(s) for the Yankees? Let us know in the comments.