Should the KC Royals try to coax Raul Ibanez back?

(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

We recently wrote about KC Royals managerial candidate Pedro Grifol. Today, we take a look at former Royal Raúl Ibañez, whose name continues to appear as a potential candidate. We’ll be profiling more possibilities soon.

He’s eight years removed from his last season playing major league baseball, a half-summer spent with the KC Royals in 2014 as they made their way to the World Series for the first time since 1985. But Raúl Ibañez hasn’t left the game.

He serves today as a Senior Vice President-Field Operations for Major League Baseball. He also spent time in the Dodgers’ front office after retiring as a player, and even worked as a baseball broadcaster.

Should the Royals try to lure Ibañez back to Kansas City?

It’s an intriguing possibility, especially because his name continues to surface in media and Internet speculation about who might replace Mike Matheny, KC’s recently dismissed manager.

But is he a good candidate to manage the Royals?

Before delving into the merits of interviewing Ibañez for Kansas City’s vacant job, it’s best to review his baseball bona fides.

Raúl Ibañez’ played an important role in the KC Royals’ 2014 season.

Ibañez was an excellent player. Primarily an outfielder, he hit .272 with 305 home runs and 1,207 RBIs in a 19-year big league career that included two stops in Kansas City, three in Seattle, and one each with Philadelphia, the Yankees and the Angels.

In his three-plus seasons with the Royals, he slashed .286/.343/.483 and hit .294 in both 2002 and 2003.

And although he struggled to a .188 average when he returned to Kansas City in 2014 after an 11-year absence, one moment in that season may be his biggest as a Royal.

Ibañez was hitting .157 for the Angels when they released him June 21. In need of help they obviously believed he could provide after losing seven of their previous 10 games, and stuck in second place behind Detroit in the American League Central, the Royals signed Ibañez June 30.

Ibañez delivered. The club had dropped six games behind when he convened a late July players meeting, the kind of move even a newcomer can make when he happens to be a 19-year major league veteran with a Royals past.

What message did Ibañez have? According to what he told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale a couple of months later, he emphasized the team’s “incredible” talent and:

"“…I told them that looking in from the outside, every team hated to play them. Everyone saw the talent they had. This was their opportunity. They were on the cusp of greatness.”“I just thought they needed a belief.”"

Ibañez spoke. They Royals listened—as James Shields told Nightengale, “We were on a downhill track. We needed to believe in ourselves again. He gave us that confidence we were missing. And it stayed.”

The Royals, driven in no small part by Ibañez’s words, steamed through the rest of the season and into the playoffs and World Series.

The KC Royals should at least gauge Raúl Ibañez’s interest in managing.

History suggests Ibañez might be interested in making his way back to a big league dugout. Although he’d never managed before in the big leagues—and still hasn’t—he interviewed for the Tampa Bay job after the 2014 season; at the time, the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin reported agent Seth Levinson saying managing was something Ibañez had “…always wanted to do. Always.”

He’s also been known to stay away from the managerial market: Los Angeles Times writer Bill Shaikin reported in 2019 that Ibañez was being pursued for, but wasn’t pursuing, managing jobs.

Ibañez, though, certainly didn’t sound at the time like someone permanently closing the door on the dugout: he told Shaikin, “It’s not the right time for me.”

Whether now could be the time, and Ibañez is ready to manage, is unknown. As much as he’s respected around baseball, though, the Royals should find out.

Nothing says he’d be the best skipper available, or that he’d even be interested.

But the Royals won’t find out unless they give him a call.

Next. How about Bobby Witt Jr. as ROY?. dark

Kansas City is looking for a new manager. Is Raúl Ibañez on the club’s interview list?