Ibanez to sign three-year deal with Phillies

The world champion Philadelphia Phillies filled their most pressing need Friday, replacing departed left fielder Pat Burrell by reaching an agreement with free-agent Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract worth $31.5 million, two sources said.

The Phillies moved quickly after the complicated four-team trade that would have sent Mark DeRosa from the Chicago Cubs to Philadelphia stalled throughout the winter meetings in Las Vegas. Believing the Cubs and also the Los Angeles Angels had strong interest in Ibanez, the Phillies clinched the deal by adding a third year to the contract, a source said.

Ibanez, 36, has been a bit of a late bloomer, having stringed together seven consecutive solid seasons, the first two with the Kansas City Royals and the last five with the Seattle Mariners. The Los Angeles Angels and New York Mets also expressed interest in Ibanez but were preoccupied with other free agents the last few days.

The left-handed hitting Ibanez has averaged 24 home runs a year the last four seasons in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. He has driven in more than 100 runs the last three years, one of only five outfielders to do so.

It was thought that the Phillies might have preferred a right-handed replacement for the right-handed Burrell to bat behind left-handed hitters Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But besides Burrell and Manny Ramirez, the top corner outfielders on the market – Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn in addition to Ibanez – hit left-handed. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. also preferred Ibanez because of his impeccable clubhouse reputation, something that outgoing Phillies GM Pat Gillick knew well from his stint as Mariners’ GM.

Losing out on Ibanez could mean the Angels step up their pursuit of Ramirez if they fail to land free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Cubs might be inclined to revisit a trade for Peavy now, although the Phillies no longer are likely to want to participate in a multi-team deal.

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Updated Friday, Dec 12, 2008