Royals sign veteran hitter Ibanez to big league deal
Colon, first-round Draft pick in 2010, recalled from Omaha; Ciriaco and Maxwell cut
KANSAS CITY -- Raul Ibanez, a popular and productive player in his three seasons with Kansas City, is back with the Royals -- 11 years later.
Ibanez, 42, was signed to a Major League contract on Monday. The Royals also called up infielder Christian Colon from Triple-A Omaha. To make room on the roster, outfielder Justin Maxwell and infielder Pedro Ciriaco were designated for assignment.
Both Ibanez and Colon joined the Royals for Monday night's series opener at Minnesota.
This season, Ibanez batted just .157 in 57 games for the Angels with three homers and 21 RBIs. He was released on June 21.
It was 2001-03 when Ibanez last played for the Royals, hitting for a combined .291 average. In '02, he had 24 home runs, 103 RBIs and batted .294 while dividing time between left field, right field, first base and designated hitter. He was valued, too, as a team leader and a positive clubhouse influence.
After the 2003 season, Ibanez again became a free agent and the Royals lost him to the Seattle Mariners, the same team he'd left to sign with Kansas City in his first turn at free agency.
"We've always been a big admirer of Raul, how he played and how he is as a person," general manager Dayton Moore said. "We felt by signing him and bringing up Christian Colon, it makes our team as good as it can be today."
After winning 10 straight games, the Royals have lost seven of their last 10 and again hit an offensive slowdown. They're hoping Ibanez can be a spark at the plate.
"When we were playing the Angels this year he started a rally and hit, I think, a 98 mile-an-hour fastball off [Kelvin] Herrera, and last year he hit a home run off [Greg Holland]," Moore said. "The guy knows what he's doing, he's a professional hitter. You can have all the talent in the world and all the skills, but if you don't know how to hit, you're going to be inconsistent."
Just how the Royals will use Ibanez, of course, will be the decision of manager Ned Yost.
"It will be up to Ned, but we anticipate him getting a lot of playing time. He can play right field, he can play first base, he can certainly play left field and give Alex [Gordon] a day and let him get off his legs for a while," Moore said.
And, certainly, the left-handed-hitting Ibanez could be an alternative to the right-handed Billy Butler in the DH slot.
"So it just puts us in a real good position going forward to have that type of player and person in our clubhouse," Moore said.
Ibanez is just 28 days past his 42nd birthday, but age did not deter the Royals.
"We all know that professional athletics is very tough and demanding on your body, but Raul keeps himself in great shape," Moore said. "He does all the right things and takes care of his body. We're comfortable with his health."
Ibanez is in his 19th big league season. In addition to the Royals and Mariners, he's been with the Phillies, Yankees and Angels and has played in 44 postseason games.
His career average is .273 in 2,128 games. He's banged 303 homers with 1,202 RBIs. Ibanez and the Yankees' Carlos Beltran are the only two active players with 300 homers and 50 triples in their careers.
At various points in recent years when Ibanez has become a free agent, the Royals considered him.
"We've always looked for opportunities, but it just never worked out," Moore said. "When he got released, we had several scouts and an entire coaching staff step forward and say, 'We need to try to get him.'"
Colon, 25, will be making his Major League debut. In 74 games for Omaha, he had a .296 average with four homers and 37 RBIs. He was the Royals' first-round choice in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft and is their 15th-ranked prospect by MLB.com.
"I was surprised," Colon said of the callup. "I was just kind of focused on playing where I was with Omaha. Didn't really think much about it. Then it just happened, when I least expected it."
Colon was signed as a shortstop but has been playing primarily second base this season, so he could fill in for Alcides Escobar or Omar Infante at those positions. He can also play third base.
"For the last year or so in Triple-A, he's been very productive," Moore said. "He works the count, gets on base, puts the bat on the ball, plays all three infield positions very well. If Omar or Esky needs a day, Christian can do a good job."
Maxwell, who had been dropped off the roster earlier this season, was hitting just .150 in 20 games and struggled in his second time with the big league club. A tell-tale sign was that his right-handed bat was absent from Sunday's lineup and Yost used left-handed Jarrod Dyson instead against a lefty pitcher.
Ciriaco got into 25 games and had a .213 average. He was used as a backup middle infielder and a pinch-runner.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.