This is a historic trade just because Ichiro is a historic player and was-emphasis was-a first-magnitude star, a slashing throwback to the Deadball Era. He can still run, he's still a plus fielder, but he's also 38 and doesn't seem to have the same potency that he used to. From 2011 to date, he has hit .248/.285/.325 at home-hey, it's a tough park, so we can throw that out to some degree-and .286/.316/.357 on the road. That includes 19 doubles, five triples, and four home runs. For a corner outfielder, this is nothing. It's nothing for any position. He's doing a little better this year, hitting .297/.314/.402. It's still nothing. He's also hitting .208 in July. Ichiro doesn't hit home runs and doesn't walk, so if he's not hitting over .300 there's just no there there.
There is no disputing the Yankees needed outfield help with Brett Gardner being out for the year, but other than having the virtue of being cheap, this deal entails real risk in terms of putting a player who is presently an out machine in the everyday lineup. Of the other players rumored to have been discussed, Shane Victorino is more vital and Justin Upton is young and has potential. Both would have been worth at least a moderately higher price in order to get access to a player who is more likely to produce at this point than Ichiro, who hasn't been at his best since 2009.
If Ichiro can surprise and hit like Ichiro again, this deal will be steal; I like D.J. Mitchell as a groundball machine, but the Yankees haven't given up anyone who is going to turn into anything more than a back-of-rotation piece. With Ichiro headed to left field, they also get to toss Raul Ibanez's glove in a landfill, and maybe Ibanez himself as well (or at least to the bench), since the third base-DH combination of Eric Chavez and Alex Rodriguez has worked so well. That is all positive, but the outcome of the deal depends on Ichiro being able to post at least a league-average on-base percentage, and we just don't know if he can do that. Until he does, the Yankees have just taken an old team and-incredibly-made it older.
I'm fine with the move, if only because the Yankees really didn't give up anything for a player that could benefit from a move to Yankee Stadium. The team needed an outfielder with Brett Gardner being out for the year and this one didn't cost any of the top prospects. He's no Justin Upton, but he won't embarrass himself on defense and is a Free Agent at the end of the season, so very little is lost if he remains the player he's been in Seattle last season and this season. Ichiro won't be a savior for the team in any kind of way, but it might keep Ibanez on the bench a little more, and I can't really argue with any move that provides that benefit.
As of this moment, I'm more surprised than excited or disappointed about the sudden acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki—like everyone else. But if I had to choose between the two, I'd chalk this up as a shrewd move from Cashman now that we know that Brett Gardner is out for the season. With the price of acquiring Ichiro being so low, it's hard to feel like this isn't a gamble whose percentages favor the Yankees. Is this the best player that could have been traded for to push Raul Ibanez back to the bench? Probably not. As a hitter who doesn't hit for power and doesn't draw walks, Ichiro needs to bat .300 to be a valuable hitter, something he hasn't been able to do as effectively the past two seasons.
While the easy assumption would be that a left-handed batter like Ichiro would see a numbers boost as a result of Yankee Stadium, I remain unconvinced. A short right field would both mitigate his defense (if that's where they even decide to play him once Swisher returns) and give him less field to shoot line drives into when he bats. The short porch in right field is a benefit to a player who lofts a lot of fly balls that would be outs in other parks, but reach the first few rows (Johnny Damon) and guys who hit line drives without much lift that would be doubles in other parks (Robinson Cano). I wouldn't really see it doing much of anything for Ichiro, who fits neither description. But with a need in the outfield and a low cost to go and get him, I'd risk one D.J. Mitchell to see if Ichiro can get on another hot streak. If he's open to trying his hand at playing left field, so much the better.
Well, that came out of nowhere. Considering all it cost to get Ichiro's services for the remainder of the '12 season was two non-major-prospect minor league pitchers and $2.25 mil, I can't criticize this move much. There's a fair chance that Ichiro's offense will improve in the more lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium. He'll likely leave after the season anyway. Considering the alternative in left was the aged platoon of Ibanez and Jones, or a guy who would cost a boatload of prospects, this is a fairly easy trade to make. Mitchell & Fahrquar don't project to be pitchers the Yankees will miss. You ninja, Cash.
Now that more information has come out about the move, it’s hard not to see this is as a positive, even if it is only a moderate improvement. Ichiro isn’t great anymore, which is kind of hard to grasp having watched his whole career play out, but that’s just fine. The good thing about him coming over to a team like the Yankees is that he doesn’t need to be truly great now. He becomes another cog in a machine-like offense. The only thing they are really missing is a guy that can run. With Gardner presumably out for the year, having Ichiro helps take a little of the sting out by offering speed and defense. If Girardi is to be believed, this will take Ibanez out of left field and replace him with a superior fielder. He probably isn’t going to be the same guy we’ve seen in highlights for a decade, but it’s still an upgrade.
I can’t get too excited about the move, but I can’t be upset about it at all. Sacrificing a Triple-A swing man, a reliever and a couple million to take a chance on Ichiro finding a couple months of his old self in a new scene isn’t terribly concerning. The Yankees have the depth to easily replace Mitchell in the swing role and relievers are, well, relievers. Really, it’s just kind of cool to think that Ichiro is a Yankee, even if it is just a superficial feeling.
Obviously, my first reaction was that Brian Cashman is a master of the unexpected trade. My thoughts then strayed towards Seattle Mariners fans. Ichiro has been a Mariners staple for so very long that it makes me feel old. I know he's old and I know he's not as good as he once was, but does that really matter to long-time fans of the player? Their franchise just traded away their longtime superstar for a couple of prospects and cash--not to mention that he will be playing in front of them in pinstripes this very series. These are the last three games the M's fans will possibly see Ichiro play in front of them in Seattle and it will be as a New York Yankee. I feel for the Mariners fans at this moment. As a person who believes that every team should have a McCutchen, a Jeter, a Kemp, or other superstar player to root for, I just find this very sad for Mariners fans. This wasn't gradual. This was more like a blow to the face.
What isn't there to like about this trade? The Yankees were able to acquire a future Hall Of Famer for a couple of spare parts that were probably destined to only help via some kind of trade anyway. That said, there seems to be a bit of reservation from some about this deal. While those folks are entitled to their opinion, I certainly don't agree with it at all, and couldn't be more excited about seeing Ichiro in pinstripes down the stretch.
We're talking about an all-time great player in the majors, and this is despite playing a good chunk of his career in Japan. He'll bring energy and excitement to the Bronx, and while his skills have diminished in recent years, let's not forget the human element of this wonderful game. This may be his last chance to win the ultimate prize in his sport, and that fact along could be enough to spark something in him that he's been lacking in Seattle over the past few years.
Ichiro will come in, play fantastic outfield defense, and be able to contribute as a role player on an established veteran team. As a true professional, this is a position he should thrive in, despite his current shortcomings as a player.