Ichiro $13M 2-yr deal with
#yankees all done, pending physical
Well, that closes that scintillating offseason storyline. Ichiro Suzuki will be back for a pair of seasons in New York with the Yankees after impressing them with his .322/.340/.454 batting line in half a season. It's a risk since he had not played like that since his last All-Star season of 2010, but unfortunately, there simply are not many starting options in the outfield at the moment and the Yankees have a Nick Swisher-shaped hole in right field. Ichiro carries the possibility of decent offensive production in right field to go with still-above-average speed and defense, especially back at his natural position in right field. The limited power might not even be a problem if Mariners blogger Jeff Sullivan is correct. It sure looked like he was comfortable firing '09 Johnny Damon-esque bullets into the short porch.
There's still plenty of time left in the offseason for a trade to acquire another outfielder, but at the moment, the formation of Ichiro, Curtis Granderson, and Brett Gardner appears to be the team's trio on Opening Day. If so, boy, I can't remember the last time the Yankees had such a light-hitting outfield. I might have been an infant. Even if Grandy gets 40 homers, as a group, they might not get to 60. It's not all bad though--Ichiro's second half was great, Grandy's power is not negligible, and we've seen what an all-around weapon Gardner can be when healthy.
As it is, the Yankees did get a slight discount from Ichiro on that second year after receiving some competition from the Phillies and Giants. Was it unfortunate that they had to give Ichiro a second year? Absolutely. That being said, $6.5 million committed to next year is not that much--at $86.725 mil, they will still have about $100 million to work with on Cano's probable big free-agent deal, Jeter's likely-exercised player option, and arbitration. Many teams operate their entire squad on payrolls under $100 million. This is not an impossibility.
Who knows? Maybe Ichiro's second half last year was not a small sample size mirage, and he really did take to playing competitive baseball in Yankee Stadium. Maybe Sullivan's projection of Ichiro's power is accurate. Maybe that will lead to his best season in a few years. Maybe the Yankees also stand to generate big revenue from the increased Japanese media coverage they missed after Hideki Matsui's departure in 2009. Maybe I'm fiendishly overusing the word maybe, but that's exactly what Ichiro is. It's hard to know what to expect from a near-40-year-old, even if he is a future Hall of Famer.
Pete Rose, a guy who was decent at baseball and someone to whom Ichiro is often compared, had a pretty terrible age-39 season in 1980 and recovered to hit .325/.391/.390 in '81 at age 40. We'll see if our generation's Rose can do the same a year younger (perhaps without the gambling).