If you ask anyone in Major League Baseball, the Ichiro deal went as swimmingly as possible.
Ichiro, 38, realized he was no longer needed during the Seattle Mariners’ rebuilding stage. Team management agreed, shopped him around for a bit and found a familiar suitor in the New York Yankees.
Seattle shipped away the future Hall of Famer in return for two pitching prospects, D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. The Yanks got a relatively productive outfielder to fill the void left by Brett Gardner while the M’s reeled in a couple more young talents.
Nobody’s disgruntled, fans of both franchises should be satisfied and both teams came out as winners.
So now what?
What should we expect from Ichiro as well as the Yankee front office in the upcoming months?
It is extremely relevant that Ichiro is not the player that we used to know. (No, that was not a deliberate Gotye reference.) Anyway, the Yankees aren’t getting the 200-hit per season, 40 stolen base threat the Japanese outfielder once was.
General manager Brian Cashman knew he was not acquiring the ten-time All-Star that used to roam the confines at Safeco Field. Cashman actually traded for an asset with a decent bat, some very good speed and a very useful glove out in left or right.
Ichiro started his Yankee career in right field last night. But what happens when Nick Swisher returns from injury? How will the former American League MVP be utilized?
During the press conference after the trade was completed, manager Joe Girardi stated that Suzuki would start in right until Swisher comes back into lineup. After that, he’ll be used in left field as a more than suitable replacement for the lost Brett Gardner.
In addition to starting out in right field, Ichiro was penciled in at the No. 8 spot in the Yankee order. Given his recent woes and Derek Jeter’s current success as the team’s leadoff hitter, don’t expect that to change. As of today, Jeter is hitting almost 50 points higher than Ichiro.
The lowest Ichiro had ever hit in the Seattle order was from the No. 3 spot. He will now have to accept a lesser role in much deeper lineup.
At the age of 37, Ichiro had his absolute worst season as a Major Leaguer in 2011. He hit at an uncharacteristic .272 clip with a rather low .310 on-base percentage. This was the first season in which Suzuki failed to reach at 200 hits and a batting average of .303 or higher.
And unfortunately for Ichiro, he isn’t up to much this season either. After his first game in pinstripes where he went 1-for-4, Ichiro’s season totals consist of a .261 average alongside four homers and 28 runs batted in.
So being that the Seattle legend is clearly on the decline, what can Yankee fans expect from a production standpoint?
Since he’s been traded from a cellar-dweller to a World Series contender, I would expect Ichiro to play with some sort of spark from here on out. It is rather difficult to predict what a players’ statistics will be during the last 66 games of the season. But I’ll give it a whack anyway.
Here’s my prediction on how Ichiro’s major offensive stats will look after the last regular season game:
Current stats: .261 AVG, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 49 R, 15 SB
End of season prediction: .289 AVG, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 80 R, 29 SB
Again, he should begin playing with a tad of motivation. Add that to the very lefty-friendly porch at Yankee Stadium as well as very capable offensive teammates and we could be looking at some decent production.
Once the free agency period begins in the 2012 offseason, both Ichiro and Swisher will hit the open market. That’ll leave the Yankees without a right fielder for the 2013 season.
So which of the two, if any, will be back in The Bronx next year?
If it’s either, the odds heavily point towards it being Ichiro. This has more to do with Swisher going elsewhere than anything.
As a free agent, Swisher will demand a contract worth far more than his actual value. And why is that? Because that’s what players do nowadays.
The Yankee front office will not throw some serious cash at a career .160 postseason hitter with two of their top players, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, also hitting the free agent market.
If Ichiro plays up to par and contributes to potential postseason success, I don’t see why re-upping him for another year would be a problem.
As far as whom I believe will end up as the Yankees’ right fielder in 2013, my money is on Arizona’s Justin Upton. The Yankees will have the prospects the D’Backs could be looking for in exchange for their franchise guy. The deal would likely come during the winter meetings, where Arizona can truly get the most value for Upton.
History also dictates that the Yanks and D’Backs are not afraid to collaborate for a blockbuster type deal. Remember the deal that brought Randy Johnson to New York in 2005? Or how about the three-team trade that helped the Yankees reel in Curtis Granderson three years ago?
Regardless, any potential deal for Upton is a tad farfetched at the moment.
All Yankee fans can wish for now is some solid production from their new outfielder in Ichiro. No one is asking him to be a superstar. He just has to replace Gardner and fit the role.