Of all the players I never thought would end up on the Yankees, especially at the 2012 trade deadline, Ichiro Suzuki most definitely would’ve been at the top of that list. As he was entrenched in Seattle as the long-time face of the Mariner franchise, we had no idea he was even available. But, apparently, he requested the trade, wanting to help the Mariners get better for the future. The Yankees obliged his request, acquiring him yesterday for D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar; the Yankees also received cash and are only paying $2.25M of Ichiro’s remaining salary, while the M’s will pick up about $4.5M.
In just about every way, this deal makes a lot of sense for the Yankees. While Ichiro surely isn’t what he used to be, he can still play defense in the outfield and steal bases and with Brett Gardner out, the Yankees didn’t have those elements. Now they do. Ichrio’s ability to play the field will mean less time in the outfield for Raul Ibanez, which will help the Yankees’ team defense and help Ibanez stay healthy and effective. Of course that’s what the Yankees get; what about what they gave? Farquhar was a waiver-wire pick up this year and I’m sure the Yankees won’t miss him much. D.J. Mitchell has some okay upside, maybe a mid-rotation guy and that’s obviously valuable. However, the Yankees have at least one clone of him (Adam Warren) and one guy who’s just about the same, maybe a little better (David Phelps). While Mitchell is a nice piece to have around, he’s certainly replaceable.
Again, this isn’t the Ichiro of our relative youth. This year’s incarnation is hitting just .261 with a .288 OBP and a .353 SLG. Strangely enough, that grades out to a .092 Iso, the highest Ichiro’s had since his .113 mark in ’09. Also low is his .279 BABIP, down from .295 last year (which was down from the year before that…and the year before that…you get the idea). Taking a peak at his batted ball profile, we see a few things. First, we see a sky-high line-drive rate, which shows he should probably have a better BABIP than .297. However, he’s also hitting more pop-ups than usual and bunting for a hit at a much, much lower rate than he usually does. If we punch his current batting line into the xBABIP calculator found here, we get a .349 BABIP (!) instead of a .279 BABIP. That makes it seem like he’s due for a large correction, but we shouldn’t necessarily count on it. That’s a lot to ask of a player, even one who’s as good at making contact as Ichiro is. Of course, getting him under Kevin Long’s tutelage could help.
We can see here that Ichiro’s had a bit of an issue with pitches that are low and in and up and in. Perhaps K-Long and Robinson Cano can get Ichiro on board with the “HR-drill” that stresses pulling the ball with power. While Ichiro’s never displayed much power, perhaps he can indulge himself with the short-porch in right field.
Like we must with any aging star coming to a new team, we must temper our expectations for Ichiro in New York. The chances that we see the Ichiro of old are extremely low. All he need to do is make some contact, steal some bases, and play some good defense in left/right. If he can do all that, he’ll be golden and we’ll be happy. Welcome to the Yankees, Ichiro. We’ll be in your corner.
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