Don’t be surprised if Raul Ibanez ends up on Phillies coaching staff

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

Despite an impressive first season as the Philadelphia Phillies hitting coach, Matt Stairs left for stability in San Diego, as he joined Andy Green's coaching staff as the Padres hitting coach last Friday. It wouldn't be shocking if his successor is his former teammate Raul Ibanez. 

With the Phillies reportedly set to name Los Angeles Dodgers director of player development Gabe Kapler their next manager, Ibanez could make quite a bit of sense as team's next hitting coach. Besides the fact that he had over 2,000 hits in his 19-year big league career, Ibanez is well connected to Kapler. Since Feburary of 2016, Ibanez has been a special assistant to Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations. Friedman is one of the most respected executives in the league, especially by someone like Kapler. That Friedman brought Ibanez into the front-office almost immediately after his career ended won't be lost on Kapler. 

In addition to both having worked in the Dodgers front-office, the two have the common connection of both having worked at FS1. Their tenures didn't overlap at FS1, but they have mutual connections from their stint on the network. They also saw quite a bit of each other early in their playing careers, when Ibanez played for the Seattle Mariners and Kapler was with the Texas Rangers. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, who broke the news that the Phillies plan to hire Kapler, did note that Kapler has some detractors around the league, with some viewing him as overly intense. Ibanez, who was once voted the second nicest player in the MLB, might be a perfect compliment to Kapler. 

One thing that could get in the way of Ibanez joining Kapler's staff in Philadelphia is that he's been connected to the managerial vacancy that the New York Yankees now have. A chance to manage one of his former teams, one that is full of young talent and finished a win away from the World Series in 2017, would obviously take precedent over following Kapler to Philadelphia. 

The Phillies, of course, wouldn't be limited to hiring Ibanez as a hitting coach. Kapler could elect to go with another hitting coach, but still offer Ibanez a job as the bench coach, first base coach or third base coach. However, Ibanez is a well enough viewed commodity around the league that it may take more than a base coach job to get him to part with his current roles with the Dodgers and as a studio analyst for ESPN. And given that Kapler's managerial experience is limited to a one-season stint as a Single-A manager in the Boston Red Sox organization, the team may elect to go with a more experienced bench coach. So a role as the team's hitting coach would seem to make the most sense. 

Ibanez, 45, spent three of his 19 major league seasons playing for the Phillies. 2009, when he hit 34 home runs and was an All-Star for a Phillies team that went to the World Series, was the best season of his career. 

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