Now that the club's trade of A.J. Burnett to the Pirates is complete, general manager Brian Cashman can turn his attention to Ibanez, the organization's top choice for the DH spot because he can also play some outfield if needed.
"The preference would be to find someone from the left side that can do some damage against right-handed pitching, but ... in the event we have injuries that hit in-season, that my manager could put out for defense," Cashman said on Sunday.
The Yankees also continue to have interest in re-signing veteran Eric Chavez, 34, who batted .263 with two homers and 26 RBIs in 58 games for New York last year. But the Yankees view Chavez more as a backup corner infielder and not as a DH option.
Speaking to MLB.com in Phoenix, Chavez said that he was told by the Yankees to wait for the completion of the Burnett trade. Chavez said that he would be returning on a Major League contract, but estimated that it is only "50-50" that he comes back to the Yankees.
Earlier on Sunday, Cashman acknowledged that there is a possibility Chavez will not return.
"I've continued dialogue -- not a negotiation, but a dialogue with Eric Chavez," Cashman said. "I like Eric. I thought he was a nice player for us last year, a nice complement off the bench, but I can't honestly tell you that I can do any and all of it just yet."
As for Ibanez, 39, he moved ahead of other free agent choices like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero because he played 134 games in left field last year for the Phillies.
Ibanez batted .245 with 20 homers and 84 RBIs in 144 total games for Philadelphia. Regarded as a good clubhouse influence, he struggled against lefties but posted a .256/.307/.440 line against right-handers.
With Andruw Jones already on board to mash lefties, that seems to be good enough. In Damon's case, Cashman told the free agent that he is not the Yankees' first choice based upon their criteria.
"Johnny did call trying to get a determination about where he sat, and I was honest with him," Cashman said.
Cashman said that he believes the reason notable names like Damon, Matsui and Guerrero remain unsigned is because the Yankees haven't yet filled their DH role, and those players are waiting to see if their names come up. But the job appears to be heading Ibanez's way.
"I know they all want to come here and I know they want to be a part of this place," Cashman said. "I don't know what the other options are or the other offers are; they might be more significant than what we could be willing to pay, they might be less, they may be none. I don't know. I do know there's a vacancy sign sitting here."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Jesse Sanchez contributed reporting. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.