Most Major League Baseball players at 41 years old are sailing in their yacht off the coast of Florida in March, not getting ready for another season in the deserts of Arizona. It’s safe to say that Raul Ibanez is not “most baseball players.” In fact, not only is Ibanez preparing for his 19th season in the big leagues, but he has shown that he can still play at a high level.
Last season with the Mariners, the team who originally drafted him in 1992, Ibanez hit 29 homers and drove in 65 runs on a 91-loss team. Ibanez wasn’t used exclusively as a designated hitter either, he spent 100 games (out of 124) in the outfield, which proves he hasn’t become a liability yet on defense.
Ibanez spent the first ten years of his career with the Mariners and put up some good numbers in his tenure there: 179 homers, .288 batting average, and 778 RBI (1999-2008). He only played in 104 games in 2001 when Seattle won an American League record 116 games, but he proved to be a consistent performer. In 2006, he smashed 33 homers and finished third in the American League with 123 RBI.
In December 2008, Ibanez was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies and immediately had an impact. He hit a career-high 34 homers and knocked in 93 runs for the eventual pennant-winning Phils. He hit a homer and knocked in 4 runs during the World Series, but the Phillies ultimately fell short against the New York Yankees.
After helping the Phillies to two more playoff berths in 2010 and ’11, Ibanez was granted his free agency and in 2012 helped the Yankees in the playoffs make it to the ALCS. Ibanez hit a pair of huge homers against the Orioles in the ALDS and forever will be a hero in the Bronx.
It seemed fitting that Ibanez returned to Seattle last season which many expected to be his final campaign in the big leagues. Of course, he then went on and had one of the best seasons of his career and made the prognosticators second-guess whether the end was actually near for the native of New York City.
The Angels needed a right-fielder/designated hitter so they signed Ibanez to a one-year, $2.75 million contract in December of 2013. It remains to be seen if Ibanez can replicate his performance from last season or if Father Time will finally catch up with him. Either way, he provides a veteran presence on a team that has plenty of weapons to contend for a playoff berth.