The New York Yankees‘ current fourth outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, has been rumored in trades since the team brought in two more outfielders during the offseason, and the Japanese international’s fate is still uncertain. The organization announced Sunday that they are willing to eat a portion of Suzuki’s $6.5 million salary for the right trade piece, but the team should not be so eager to dump the 40-year-old icon just yet.
The announcement that the team is willing to pay a sum of his contract sent the right message to the rest of MLB, but the Yankees should be cautious of what they get in return. Suzuki can still benefit the team early in the season in more ways than one.
Firstly, hanging on to Ichiro increases the likelihood of another team suffering an injury which in turn will drive up the demand for an outfielder, especially one with the marketability of Suzuki. The longer the Yankees are able to keep Suzuki, the less likely the organization will be to make an impulsive trade that they might regret by season’s end.
Suzuki can also benefit the Yankees by offering relief to the aging lineup. The Yankees are one of the oldest teams in baseball and many players will undoubtedly need days off. Suzuki is up there in age as well, but who better to have come off the bench than arguably the best singles-hitter of all time? Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stated that he believes Suzuki would make a fine fourth outfielder and could really thrive in the role, referencing his ability to defend and steal bases in his late age.
Lastly, Suzuki is the perfect man to have in a clubhouse that just brought in a rookie Japanese pitcher with expectations higher than any foreign player in recent memory. Masahiro Tanaka will be playing in a new country against new opponents while throwing a new ball. Having the most iconic Japanese player mentoring Tanaka in the dugout can only be positive for him and the organization.
Suzuki is well past his prime and his contributions to a team as far as his physical ability may be limited, but it is hard justifying giving up probably the best hitter of all time in a trade for another team’s unknown prospect. The Yankees need to make sure the team will significantly improve before they trade Suzuki and pay to have him gone.