Last night before the their game against the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees decided to trade for aging outfielder Ichiro Suzuki giving up pitching prospects D.J Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. There's been a lot of debate about this acquisition from fans and media. Here's my pros and cons to this trade.
Replacing Brett Gardner. Believe it or not, Brett Gardner is a very important piece to this team. He gave them speed at the top or bottom of the lineup wherever they decided to put him and got on base. He's a guy that can easily turn a double into a triple and cut off a ball in the left centerfield gap which you need in Yankee Stadium because it plays deep. As most of you know, he's out for the season with an elbow injury. In 95 games in Seattle this season, Ichiro has a on base percentage of .288, way down from his career average of .366. When Gardner was healthy last season, his on base percentage was .345. It will be interesting to see if Ichiro can come even close to those numbers in a lineup that loves to take pitches and wear out starting pitchers early.
How serious is the Nick Swisher injury? Swisher left Friday's game against Oakland with a mild left hip flexor strain according to the team but Swisher was quoted as saying it was closer to his quad muscle. With the type of injury Swisher has, he can be out for weeks or months. As of right now, the Yankees themselves don't know the severity of his injury which made the sudden move for Ichiro even more necessary.
Outfield Defense. With Gardner out for the season and Granderson being the only good defensive option in the outfield, the corner outfielders have not been that great defensively. The left field platoon of Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones and Nick Swisher in right field have are -5 in defensive runs saved combined according to a stat I saw on ESPN which is one of the worst in the majors. Ichiro is +12 in defensive runs saved which is second in all of MLB amongst corner outfielders.
Platooning. If Swisher comes back soon enough from his injury, just exactly how will Ichiro be platooned? According to reports, Ichiro had to agree to the Yankees requirements in order for them to complete the trade for him. Amongst the many conditions the Yankees set for him was he would be asked to switch positions, hit at the bottom of the lineup and possibly sit against left-handed pitching. Apparentely, Ichiro wanted to be with the Yankees as much as the Yankees wanted him so he agreed to the conditions that were set out for him. The Yankees higher ups believe he wanted out of Seattle so bad that he was tanking it and will be rejuvenated playing with a winning ballclub.
Contract. Ichiro is in the last year of a ridiculous contract as he's reportedly getting paid $18 million. Seattle is paying only 2 million of it and the Yankees are on the hook for the rest according to reports. What doesn't make sense is the baby Steinbrenners (Hank & Hal) have repeatedly said they want to keep the payroll under $200 million. I don't know how Ichiro's contract factors into their payroll but it would be interesting to see if there's any luxury tax implications from the remainder of his contract.
Free Agency. The Yankees have some decisions to make this offseason concerning their corner outfielders. Swisher, Jones, Ibanez and Ichiro are all free agents at the end of the season and it will be interesting to see going forward who will stay, who will go and who will be available on the market. I know, too early for hot stove talk but just putting it out there.
Conclusion. Is this a good trade? Yes, because all the Yankees are asking Ichiro to be is a platoon player, not a starter like he was in Seattle and both teams at the end of the year get a ridiculous contract for an aging player off their hands.