Most of the MLB rumors coming from the New York Yankees camp seem to be focused on pitching, specifically Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. Other rumors have the Yankees pursuing Raul Ibanez and Scott Hairston to form a lefty-righty duo at DH and in the outfield. However, the Yankees still have a glaring hole in right field.
Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki are both free agents. Swisher is all but gone, pricing himself out of any Yankees reunion. However, Ichiro has expressed a desire to return to the Bronx and the Yankees also have a mutual interest in bringing him back to fill the void in right field.
After being acquired on July 23rd, Suzuki took on a new life. In 95 games with the Seattle Mariners, Suzuki put up a .261 average, 4 home runs and 28 RBI and had 15 stolen bases. He managed only 24 extra-base hits. However, once he donned Yankee pinstripes, Ichiro hit .322 with 5 home runs, 27 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and had 19 extra-base hits.
Adding Ichiro to an outfield that will likely feature Brett Gardner in left, and Curtis Granderson in center would be interesting. Normally, the Yankees have featured a power hitter in right field from Paul O’Neill to Gary Sheffield, to Nick Swisher, they could count on at least 20 home runs from right field. However, the Yankees can afford to sacrifice some power for someone like Ichiro who doesn’t strike out that much. Ichiro has never struck out more than 86 times in a season, and would add speed to a lineup that might need a little help manufacturing runs after last year’s debacle of hitting with runners in scoring position. He also would being above-average defense, even at the age of 39.
Ichiro, a superstar used to being the focal point of the team, fit into the Yankees locker room like a glove. He was willing to bat wherever manager Joe Girardi wanted him and played all three spots in the outfield for the first time in his career.
The Yankees could certainly do a lot worse than Ichiro in right field. Ichiro would likely accept a one-year deal but even a two-year deal wouldn’t break the Yankees bank, even with the looming $189 million luxury tax threshold that they wish to get under in 2014.