Posted December 14, 2012

Yankees smart to re-sign Ichiro

Hot Stove, Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees
Ichiro experienced a career revival after being traded to the Yankees at midseason. (AP)

Ichiro experienced a career revival after being traded to the Yankees at midseason. (AP)

The Phillies and Giants, no shrinking violets with their checkbooks, both reportedly wanted Ichiro Suzuki, but the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer instead chose to remain in New York. Of course. The Yankees out-bid everyone.

Wait, what’s that? The Phillies offered two years and $14 million and the Giants were believed to have offered two years and $15 million, according to the New York Daily News, yet Ichiro signed for two years and $13 million, meaning he took a discount to sign with the Yankees.

My, how times have changed. As it is, despite the reduced rate, the Yankees had to extend beyond their self-imposed winter of frugality by offering a second year, potentially clashing with the overriding offseason objective of getting below 2014’s luxury tax threshold of $189 million.

What the Yankees received is their everyday rightfielder at a great price in this year’s open market, an above-average defender who has missed only one game in three years and whose offense was rejuvenated down the stretch after his trade from the Mariners. They also installed their third lefthanded-hitting outfielder in the starting lineup alongside Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner. Add Robinson Cano and New York seems to be too lefty-heavy, but presumably a righthanded fourth outfielder will be its next target.

In his final year and a half with Seattle Ichiro batted just .268 with a .302 on-base percentage. He’s never walked much, but when you bat over .300 every year, you don’t need many walks to raise your OBP to desirable levels. But when his average dipped below .300 for the first time in his career in 2011 — and well below, to .272 — that became a problem.

In 67 games in New York, however, he batted .322 with a .340 OBP and hit five homers, which wasn’t quite the proliferation of power many expected when he began playing home games in front of Yankee Stadium’s short rightfield porch, but the rate of homering every 45.4 at bats with New York was his best since 2005.

With any player on the cusp of 40, especially one reliant on speed, there are concerns about performance deteriorating, but Ichiro’s late-season play quelled that criticism for now. Ichiro seems to take meticulous care of himself, which should help. And he remains an excellent fielder — his 22.9 Ultimate Zone Rating since 2010 ranks seventh among all major league outfielders. That should save the club a few runs in rightfield, even though he won’t produce as many as predecessor Nick Swisher did. (Swisher, for comparison’s sake, had a 11.5 outfield UZR in the same time span, an 11 run difference that is roughly equivalent to one win.)

Also intriguing is that Ichiro is 394 hits shy of 3,000 and, though he had only 362 hits the past two seasons, it’s not impossible he could reach the historic milestone in pinstripes.

But the Yankees signed him as a rightfielder, not a milestone-reacher. Ichiro’s contract passes for a splurge by the franchise’s standards this offseason, but as a low-in-the-order contact hitter who plays good defense, the fit is a good one.

– By Joe Lemire

4 comments
NoahHunter
NoahHunter

I am not trying to be contrarian or a jerk, but I think your last two opinion pieces are hugely flawed.  Ichiro is almost assuredly done.  A speed player at age 39.  A tiny hot streak (which it must be noted only made him okay) is no reason to take him for another year let alone two.  Maybe it works, but probably wont and who cares if it does?  Why not just take a flyer on either someone cheaper or someone closer to his prime? Conversely, your Annibal Sanchez analysis fails to address the increasing prices of ballplayers (hence present day discounted value (after projecting contract inflation)) or the fact that getting that many innings out of someone who is above league average (even if only a little) at that price would be great.  You correctly point out that he may appear more useful than he is at first, but then incorrectly use that to conclude that he has been overpaid without accurately assessing his real value and the market now and in the future for that amount of value (mitigate by whatever risk he presents).

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

 @NoahHunter I watched Anibal Sanchez pitch the last few years, his stuff is filthy. He's not as consistent as an ace, but could develop continue to improve into a solid number 2. Even still, with Sanchez, Verlander, Scherzer (sp?), and Fister as the 4th, thats a damn solid rotation to go with the Big Uns' in the lineup. If Detroit could put a few more hitters around The Crown and Prince, (and they may have done that with Victor Martinez coming back and Torrie Hunter entering the lineup), they are strong contenders for the WS next season, strong contenders that nobody is mentioning right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vin1
Vin1

Great signing

Do
Do

what he did last year means nothing.its his talent you pay for not what he did last year.but it remains to be seen how much talent  he has left.i am not a fan of the yankees GM but i think this signing is worth it.