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Yankees 2014 Roster Report Card: Ichiro Suzuki

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The Yankees and one of baseball's all-time great hitters will likely part ways. Is this the last time he'll play in the major leagues?


Grade: C-

2014 Statistics: 385 PA, .284/.324/.340, 1 HR, 86 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR

2015 Contract Status: Free Agent

Predictably after getting a nice contribution from the venerable Ichiro Suzuki toward the tail end of 2012, the Yankees bought high on the veteran and gave him a two-year, $12 million dollar deal. Unsurprisingly it really didn't work out too well for them. On the positive side though, he was less terrible at the plate in 2014 than in his prior campaign. His UZR is responsible for him being worth 0.7 fWAR more last season, but with no readily apparent dip in his fielding prowess I'd say this season was a slight uptick in his quality of play. Not that that's some big compliment or anything.

Ichiro actually started out the season very well, as his role as occasional starter seemed to fit his high-mileage bones a little better. He had a wRC+ over 100 through May and 96 through the first half. But as Carlos Beltran missed time to his various ailments and playing Alfonso Soriano became a ghastly proposition, Suzuki saw more and more time in the outfield. He cratered in June and July: an illustration as why you probably should have a relatively spry and youthful player as your fourth outfielder. Trading for Martin Prado gave him somewhat of a reprieve in the waning days of the season and he was slightly better.

During his two-year deal, Ichiro did manage to nab his 4,000th career hit between his time in the Majors and the NPB, no small feat for one of the best hitters on either side of the Pacific. The second Ichiro came to MLB, it became clear that he had the necessary ability to get hits in bunches. While his legendary speed and contact abilities were no longer the same here with the Yankees, you knew anytime he got his bat on the ball something interesting could happen. Sure, that ball was often in the other batter's box, but I digress.

What Ichiro ends up doing in 2015 is anybody's guess. There's the obvious expectation that a veteran-obsessed team like the Phillies would pick him up, but even they might shy away from a slap-hitting 40 year-old. There's also the possibility that he makes a triumphant return to Japan, coming back as the conquering hit king for one last go-around where he got his start. He could also decide to retire, but his indications throughout the season were that he doesn't think he is out of contributions to make at the professional level.

However it turns out, it's been an amazing career for the international superstar. It was no doubt interesting to see his one of a kind swing and bizarre approach to the game in pinstripes, even if they didn't lead to a lot of success for himself or his employer.