Andrew Perna. 30th July, 2012 - 2:32 pm
A week after he predicted a relatively quiet trade deadline, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made the first big splash ahead of the July 31 non-waiver deadline when he acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners on Monday.
New York sent minor league right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar, both 25, to Seattle for the 10-time All-Star outfielder.
While the deal came as a surprise given the lack of rumors involving Ichiro when you consider his statue in the game, Seattle CEO Howard Lincoln clarified exactly why the Japanese native is no longer calling the Pacific Northwest home.
"Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his long time agent, Tony Attanasio, approached Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him," Lincoln said in the press release announcing the deal.
"Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop."
That was the politically correct thing for Lincoln to say because the Mariners are not getting five-star pitchers in this deal. Mitchell was ranked by Baseball America as the 16th-best prospect in the New York organization after the 2011 season, while Danny Farquhar had a 13.50 ERA in three appearances for Toronto last season.
The pair will add depth to the organization, but the best players the Mariners received in a trade with the Yankees this year are still Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
New York, meanwhile, finally has a healthy body on the field that was acquired from Seattle. They are still waiting, and they will continue to for quite some time, for Michael Pineda to take the mound in pinstripes.
The Yankees entered the market for an outfielder last week when news broke that Brett Gardner would likely miss the remainder of the season with a lingering elbow injury. Ichiro does not possess the speed of Gardner, who is ten years his junior, but he can be a better hitter.
Ichiro is in the midst of the worst statistical season of his career, hitting .261/.288/.353 in 402 at-bats, and the decline has not been a steep one. He hit .272/.310/.335 last season and .315/.359/.394 in 2010. A player that provided more than five offensive wins above replacement for the Mariners three times in his first seven seasons has brought 0.9 oWAR since the beginning of the 2011 season.
He has struggled to catch up to fastballs at times, something we never could have envisioned five years ago with his hand-eye coordination. His swing and approach has never been traditional, but sharp sliders have also given his trouble. The 38-year-old is also susceptible to inside pitches.
Ichiro has been horrible as of late, hitting .208/.235/.273 with 12 strikeouts, but things are much different in New York than they are in Seattle. Cashman is hoping that the bats surrounding Ichiro will lead to an offensive resurgence.
The Yankees are hitting .263/.335/.460 as a team, numbers overwhelmingly better than the line of .231/.293/.362 that the Mariners have put up this season.
He will see better pitches with a handful of players, including but not limited to Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, surrounding him that could all hit cleanup for Seattle. On Sunday, Miguel Olivo (.198/.214/.335) hit fourth for the Mariners behind Casper Wells, Ichiro and Montero.
Already in first place and with an elite offense, the Yankees are hoping to take hold of the American League with an additional outfielder and more offensive depth. Ichiro is not the speedster he once was, but immediately becomes the biggest threat on the bases.
The absence of Gardner has made the reliance on the home run in New York much more drastic because the outfielder has not been able to get on base and fly around ahead of sluggers like Teixeira and Cano. Ichiro is not going to get a ton of hits with runners in scoring position, but he will help the team improve in that category as the guy on base.
Grade for New York: B
There is little risk for the Yankees in this deal.
Ichiro will be a free agent this coming winter and New York will pay just $2.25 million of the $17 million remaining on his five-year, $90 million deal.
If he does not improve the offense, the Yankees will pay just a little more than $2 million for a couple of months of added depth. If nothing else, he will bring the Japanese media back to the Big Apple. A few seasons removed from the Hideki Matsui Era, New York added Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro in less than nine months.
Ichiro made it clear privately that he had tired of the ongoing rebuilding process and it made sense for the Mariners to deal Ichiro before he left in free agency after the season.
Grade for Seattle: C-
Despite the deterioration of his skills, the Mariners would have been better served to pay less of his remaining salary or at least receive a player in return that has shown he can play at the Major League level. Mitchell and Farquhar will add organizational depth, but Seattle is also in dire need of active talent under Eric Wedge.
Ichiro Suzuki will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after his playing career is over and will wear a Mariners cap when he does. Playing a few seasons elsewhere, even a few months with the Yankees, will not change the legacy he created over the last 11-plus seasons.
He was the first Japanese-born position player in Major League history and is the leader in batting average and hits for the Mariners. Ichiro was the 2001 AL MVP when he led Seattle to the best regular season mark in baseball history.