Replacing Burrell With Ibanez?

One of the big decisions for first-year GM Ruben Amaro, Jr, is whether or not he will retain Pat Burrell. Burrell is a three true outcomes hitter who plays poor defense at a corner outfield position. There are plenty of those on the market this season, driving down the price. In many other off-seasons, players like Burrell and Adam Dunn would likely command $14 mil or so, while now it appears more likely that they will earn something in the $10-11 mil range. Regardless of the exactitudes, Burrell’s love for the city and the market surplus of like-players means he could be had for a lesser fee.

His defense stinks, though, and he would be better-suited to serve as a DH for an AL team. Though Burrell has been one of my favorite players for years, if he were to sign elsewhere and the Phillies could replace him, perhaps with a slightly less productive hitter but more solid defender, this Phightins phan would not be particularly upset. I would, however, be upset if Amaro let Burrell go elsewhere and signed one of the other good-hitting, no-defense corner outfielders to replace him.

According to Jayson Stark, this may come to fruition, as the defending champs and Raul Ibanez seemingly have strong mutual interest. As Peter Griffin would say, this really grinds my gears!

Before even looking at the numbers, let it be known that Burrell is 32 and Ibanez is 37. Players like these two do not age particularly well, and yet the Phillies seem more willing to give a multi-year deal to someone five years older than their “current” left-fielder. I’m sure Ibanez is a standup guy and a positive influence in the clubhouse, but it isn’t as if Burrell is Sidney Ponson/Milton Bradley attitude-wise. For this to even make sense, Ibanez would have to project much better offensively, and at least a little better defensively.

Burrell’s 2009 Marcel wOBA is .369 to the .344 of Ibanez. This translates to +19 runs offensively for Burrell and just +6 for Ibanez. Both are likely to play the whole season, so we dock 7.5 runs for an adjustment. Meanwhile, Burrell would get +17 runs to adjust to value above replacement while Ibanez would get +18 runs. Now, we move onto defense. Both of these guys have been either the worst, or among the worst, defensive left-fielders over the past two seasons.

A rough UZR projection has them both at around -12 or -13 runs defensively for 2009. If we consider them both to be -12, then Burrell is, all told, +16.5 runs above replacement. Ibanez… is +5.5 runs. Translated to wins, we’re talking about +1.65 wins vs. +0.55 wins.

I have nothing against Ruben Amaro, Jr. Heck, I played baseball with his nephew and his brother even donated bases and balls to a league my father and I used to run. He will have to forgive me, though, for failing to understand why he would pursue a player worth over a full win less and who is five years older than a player he could likely easily re-sign. If you do not want Burrell back, fine, but do not replace him with someone less productive than he and much older in baseball terms.

Even if this deal were just for one season, I still would not like it, because it isn’t as if the Phillies have a top-tiered prospect waiting in the wings to take over the position. If you do not plan on re-signing Burrell, it makes no sense to sign someone with similar skills that is less productive, older, and almost as, if not equally, costly.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Jeff Tolin
14 years ago

The premise is that Ibanez and Burrell will cost similar amounts, but is that really the case? I would have thought Burrell is looking for a multiyear deal at 8 figures per. Ibanez has been regularly signing extensions in the $5-6 million range over the last several years; and while he’s finally giving up the home-team discount and looking to get paid, he must understand that he’s not likely to get much more than that for two years, let alone three. Yes, if they signed for the same amount I’d definitely say Burrell is the far better value, but I just don’t see it happening. But what do I know.