Just a couple of weeks ago, the New York Yankees were looking to rid all of their aging outfielders, but now a certain foreign pitcher by the name of Masahiro Tanaka has arrived and cemented the fate of one of those veterans, for at least a little while.
Ichiro Suzuki was speculated to have a connection with the San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks only a few weeks back. Now with Tanaka on the team, the Yankees are nearly obligated to keep him. Suzuki is 40 years old and his numbers at the plate have fallen off dramatically, expectedly so, but at this point his intangibles far outweigh his production liabilities.
Suzuki is one of, if not the most polarizing baseball player ever from Japan. At just 25 years old, I’m sure playing with Suzuki is something Tanaka dreamed about as a child. There is certainly no better mentor in MLB on how to cope with the difficulties that come with being a foreign player, especially one with an insane contract and sky-high expectations.
Tanaka will also have Hiroki Kuroda at his side to help him with the pitching changes he will have to adjust to. In NPB, pitchers use a smaller ball than MLB and they also have a lighter workload by pitching just one day a week. Not only has Kuroda made these adjustments already, but he has been successful in doing it. Suzuki and Kuroda are the perfect candidates to mold Tanaka into a successful MLB pitcher and hopefully, for the Yankees, one who will perform to the level of his pay.
The Yankees might have an abundance of outfielders, but Suzuki’s contributions to the team became ever more important now with Tanaka filling in the rotation. Suzuki will be taking on a similar role like Juwan Howard did in his final playing year with the Miami Heat, of course, with more playing time.
If the Yankees trade Suzuki, I believe it would be incredibly foolish and it would only hamper the potential of Tanaka and increase his chances of folding. After paying Tanaka $155 million, the Yankees need to keep him happy, keep him comfortable and lastly, keep Ichiro.