For the third time this offseason, the Yankees have made a big free agent splash. On Friday evening they signed Carlos Beltran to a three-year contract worth $45 million. Three years for a glorified designated hitter is a bit much given his advanced age and injury history. However, there may be a big side effect to the signing: Potentially no more Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki.
Like this winter, the Yankees signed an outfielder last winter to a deal that was one (or two, depending on your perspective) year(s) too long. That, of course, was Ichiro. After coming over from the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro turned back the clock for a couple months, hitting .322/.340/.454 in 240 plate appearances to finish out 2012. Whether Ichiro's resurgence was due to the Power of the Pinstripes or whatever narrative you choose, it was enough for the Yankees' front office to give him a fresh two-year contract despite his old age and the fact that he was awful during his final year-and-a-half as a Mariner. It goes without saying that the move has backfired, as the 40-year-old Ichiro hit a pathetic .262/.297/.342 in 2013.
Thanks to the injuries to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira during spring training, the Yankees needed to pick up a bat any way they could. The bat they chose to pick up? Vernon Wells, who, even before the trade, was one of the worst, if not the worst, single players in the game. Outside of an incredibly fluky first six weeks of the season, Vernon finished with a .233/.282/.349 line and somehow managed to get 458 plate appearances. He was, and still is, a complete waste of a valuable 25-man roster spot.
Now that Carlos Beltran is in the fold, the Yankees have six outfielders on board. At the very least, one of these two should get the ax, but why not both? Wells provides absolutely nothing to the table and should get released regardless. Then, there's Ichiro. Unlike Wells, Ichiro might have a smidgen of trade value. Ichiro was worth 1.1 fWAR last season thanks to his base running and solid defense in right field. Jon Heyman proposed an Ichiro for Marco Scutaro trade with the Giants, and, in short, it would be a nice deal for the Yankees. Scutaro is worth $6.6MM AAV for the next two seasons while Ichiro is worth $6.5MM AAV in 2014, so I'd imagine the Yankees would have to eat some money or add another spare part since Scuatro is the better player. If, for whatever reason, the Giants are up for such trade, the Yankees should pull the trigger.
By potentially losing two outfielders in Ichiro and Wells following the Beltran signing, the Yankees would still possess four pretty decent outfielders (or maybe just three-and-a-half with Beltran in the mix), but, more importantly, it gives them one extra roster spot to play with. Given the shaky state of second base, third base, and shortstop, New York should use that spot on an infielder (which is why a trade for Scutaro would be a nice pickup) instead. The acquisition of Carlos Beltran gives the Yankees some options, and hopefully those options will include having Ichiro and Wells being shown the door so the team can continue to make moves to further improve the roster.