Unbelievably, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman did it again. He swooped in under the radar and acquired thirty-eight year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners for minor league pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. The Yankees also received cash to offset Ichiro’s salary.
Adding Ichiro, a 10-time All-Star and 10 time Gold Glove award winner, instantly upgrades the outfield defense and adds some speed wherever manager Joe Girardi wishes to bat him. Tonight, he made his Yankees debut in the eighth spot in the lineup and went 1 for 4 with a stolen base and recorded the final out in a 4-1 Yankees victory over the Mariners. However, during the press conference to announce the trade, Girardi said Ichiro would primarily play left field and bat ninth.
The Yankees needed outfield help after losing Brett Gardner for the season with elbow surgery. Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have played well with the increased playing time but the addition of Ichiro allows Girardi to keep Ibanez and Jones from getting overexposed.
Everyone knows what Ichiro brings to the table. The former Rookie of the Year and MVP is primarily a slap singles hitter with some speed. In the field he still has a plus arm and plays an excellent right field. Last season Ichiro struggled a bit and produced only a .272/.310/.335 slash line, well off from his career mark of .322/.366/.418. This season he has been far from stellar at the plate, posting a .261/.288/..353 slash line. That could be representative of the young and inexperienced lineup Seattle has been fielding all season, however.
The Yankees won’t ask Ichiro to do too much. They don’t need him to set the table or carry an offense like he has been doing in Seattle all these years. It was a low-risk, high-reward move by Cashman which plays into his line of thinking over the past couple of seasons. The Yankees gave up in Mitchell a potential number five starter or middle reliever and a spare bullpen piece in Danny Farquhar.
Ichiro had apparently asked the Mariners to trade him around the All-Star break in an effort to help the team rebuild. Everything was done quietly and not a peep was mentioned around Major League Baseball about an impending trade. This is the second trade in exactly seven months that the Yankees and Mariners have consummated a deal. On January 23rd, the Yankees shipped Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners in exchange for Michael Pineda and prospect Jose Campos, two highly regarded arms that figure to play a key role for the Yankees in the coming years.
Ichiro is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Mariners will be picking up around $6 million of the $8 million left on Ichiro’s $17 million salary for 2012, leaving the Yankees to pick up the remaining $2 million. This was a bold move by Brian Cashman, exactly the kind Yankees fans hope for and have come to expect.
To make room for Ichiro on the roster the New York Yankees designated outfielder Dewayne Wise for assignment. Wise had played well as the Yankees fifth outfielder and contributed to several Yankee wins. He has earned a shot to get some playing time somewhere in baseball.