Ichiro a Puzzling Signing
On Wednesday, the Yankees officially announced the signing of Ichiro Suzuki for two years and $13 million. The Yankees have been reluctant to hand out contracts of more than one year all offseason and Ichiro was the first player that got a multiyear contract from the Yankees. It was widely reported that Ichiro was receiving two-year offers from other teams, which compelled the Yankees to go to two years. It is a move that unfortunately makes little sense.
Ichiro hit .322/.340/.454/.794 during his stint with the Yankees last season. Clearly getting out of Seattle and into a pennant race gave him extra energy that helped him perform very well. However, expecting that energy to carry over into a full season with the Yankees may be wishful thinking.
Why the Yankees felt that they had to have Ichiro is beyond me. He certainly was not the only right field option out there and I don’t think he was the best one. I was hoping right field was the spot that the Yankees would pull off a big trade, but even without doing that Ichiro was not the only option. The Yankees now have three lefty outfielders and you could argue that all of them could use a platoon. Scott Hairston would be the best option to platoon with Ichiro, but it seems like he wants to go back to the Mets for some reason.
Ichiro’s success with the Yankees does not make me throw out his awful 2010 season and his awful first half last season with Seattle. There was a clear decline there, as Ichiro hit .272/.310/.335/645 in 2010 and .261/.288/.353/.642 with Seattle last season. His w/OBA was a brutal.281 in 2011. Those are just not starting outfielder caliber numbers. You can say that he was getting tired of Seattle, but you can also say he was approaching 40 and declining.
I cannot figure out why the Yankees felt compelled to give Ichiro a two-year deal and not Russell Martin. Martin is only 29 and his defense and relationship with the pitching staff was very important. Also, he was a great leader and was one of the few Yankees to come up with huge hits last season. They now do not have a legitimate major league catcher on the roster when they could have had Martin on a very reasonable deal. A theory that is out there for giving Ichiro a two-year deal is that he may get to 3,00 hits in year two of the deal. That would bring in a lot of money for the Yankees and seeing how much they care about their bank account lately that would be appealing for them. I really hope that is not why they did this.
On Wednesday, Andrew Marchand was tweeting about how Ichiro is not an upgrade over Nick Swisher. That is obviously true, yet his mentions were filled with hate about that opinion from Yankees fans. Say what you want about Swisher, but Ichiro is not going to replace his regular season production. Swisher blows Ichiro away in any offensive metric you look at over the last two years. I’m not saying Swisher should have been re-signed, but all things being equal Swisher is by far the better player at this point in their careers.
With the Yankees trying to save every penny to get under the $189 million plateau for 2014 it makes no sense giving Ichiro a deal that will cut into that. Now if Ichiro repeats his production with the Yankees last season it will certainly will be a good signing, but I just don’t see that happening. It is hard to understand why the Yankees felt that they had to have Ichiro back in the fold.