Dec
31

Holiday Mailbag: Ichiro Suzuki

By
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Mason asks: Why is Ichiro Suzuki an auto-cut? Wouldn’t that be Vernon Wells or is it both? I would rather cut Wells and use Ichiro as the 4th OF. Maybe I’m being a bit too sentimental but I wouldn’t want to do that to Ichiro even if he is below league average in multiple ways.

I don’t think Ichiro is an auto-cut at this point, but I wouldn’t call his roster spot safe either. The Yankees are reportedly shopping him and it’s not a bad idea to see if they can unload part of his contract. It’s not like he’s irreplaceable. Someone like Zoilo Almonte could do the same job for a fraction of the cost.

I definitely agree Wells is first in line to get the axe should the Yankees need a 40-man roster spot, which they inevitably will the next few weeks. Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton still need to be added to the roster, so that’s two spots right there. Wells brings pretty much nothing to the table (it’s remarkable, really) and he absolutely should go first.

As for Ichiro, his role right now is something of a glorified fifth outfielder. He is fifth on the outfield depth chart but because Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano will split right field and DH duties, Ichiro will be the first outfielder off the bench in most games. His primary job will be pinch-running and late-inning defense in right (regardless of whether Beltran or Soriano starts in the field).

The various projection systems crush Ichiro and expect him to be replacement level-ish next year, which is not unfair. He hasn’t hit at all these last three seasons and his defense slipped last year, particularly in the second half. Ichiro started only ten of the team’s final 17 games in 2013 and Joe Girardi was right to marginalize him. His name value far, far exceeds his on-field value at this point.

The Yankees won so much in the late-1990s thanks in part to their veteran-laden bench, which was filled with former stars like Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry. Those guys accepted reduced roles and thrived in limited time. I don’t know if Ichiro can be that kind of player next year — he doesn’t have Stawberry’s power or either guy’s on-base ability — but that’s the best case scenario. For now, he’s a bench player the team should look to unload if possible.

Categories : Mailbag
  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Let’s not forget Joe Torre favorite, Ruben Sierra…and Luis Sojo…

    Not to mention people like Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer playing through their shoes…

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Funny, but I recall Torre calling Sierra “the village idiot.” I don’t think he liked him too much…

      • Ed

        Torre didn’t like Sierra during his first time with the team. They got along much better during his second time around.

        • The Great Gonzo

          Joe Torre likely didn’t know he was the same guy… #SenileGuyProblems

      • http://www.twitter.com/thewallbreakers Scully

        That was during his first short stint in the 90s. He was a clubhouse favorite the second time around when he was ripping Mike Timlin fastballs into the Right Field bullpen in Fenway Park moments after Tim McCarver said aloud on air that Sierra’s bat had slider speed.

  • The Great Gonzo

    I loved ‘old Ichiro’. He was dope.

    ‘Old Ichiro’, however, is a bumout.

  • Baked McBride

    When Buck Showalter came aboard, I don’t recall so many nostalgic comparisons to the ’76-’80 teams, which, at that point, were in the much more recent past than the ’96-’00 teams are to today.

    No matter which Yankee site we’re on, why do we still read so many comparisons to the Dynasty teams, which are now 14-18 seasons ago! I know, it makes me feel old to say it. But those squads are completely irrelevant..different economic times, different internations regs, different team heirarchy, different everything. Isn’t it enough to just say that you need a good bench to win the WS? Reading about Raines, Strawberry, Ledee, Curtis, Gerald Williams is like checking out the Rangers sites and still hearing about Leetch Graves Messier and Beukeboom.

    Boy the Way Glenn Miller Played
    Songs that made the hit parade
    Guys Like Us We Had it Made
    Those Were the Days

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Since I don’t follow hockey at all, you could tell me those guys are still on the Rangers and I’d believe you.

      I don’t think this particular roster comparison is unfair, as it’s more about bench construction than some of the usual player development stuff that gets thrown around. I don’t see many generational differences.

      If you cite the 90′s and “old” one more time, I’m going to unleash fury. :)

      • Baked McBride

        Jorge Steinbrenner is The Ghost Rider?

    • Batsman

      You make comparison because they were and still are the standard in championship team building. That was a team that knew how to hit and get on base. Because they knew how to hit, homeruns came with it. Unlike the thinking of today, like Mike Axisa’s, it seems that power numbers and sabremetric stats are the measuring stick as to who the Yankees should acquire.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Can you send me a link as to your blog? I’d love to read it someday.

        Oh, wait…

    • steve (different one)

      You don’t recall reading those comparisons on all the yankee blogs in 1995?

      obviously I am being a smart ass, but you get my point…

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I only recall waiting a half hour for pages to load on a text-only browser at the time….while checking my PINE email.

  • Mickey Scheister

    Ichrio was still worth 1.4 WAR vs Beltrans 2.4 and Sorianos 1.6. Ichrio absolutely has value to any team playing Ellsbury, Soriano and Beltran in the outfield. Ellsbury gets injured easily and the other two are pushing 40 and their fielding reflects that. Of course, so is Ichiro but his 1.4 WAR was largely based on everything other than offense at this stage of his career. Let Sori and Beltran hit the dingers. Gardner, Ellsbury and Ichiro closing out games in the OF is amazing.

    • Baked McBride

      Anyone know if our current outfield has the most SBs of any team all-time? Or at least, the highest average-per-season SB numbers of any team all-time?

      • Chris

        Idk, I seriously doubt it though. How about the 86 and 87 Yankees with Claudell Washington, Dave Winfield, Roberto Kelly, Ken Griffey Sr. and Rickey Henderson? I’m sure there are a ton others.

  • Batsman

    Vernon Wells is currently not in danger for two reasons:

    1) He’s a right handed batter with power potential. According to baseballreference.com, the Angels are paying 18.6 mil of the 21 mil that’s coming to Wells. That leaves 2.4 mil being owed by the Yankees for Wells’ services.

    2) For 2.4 mil, the Yankees are hoping for “Ruben Sierra II” production. With Wells set to be a part-time player for 2014, his inclusion on the team gives Joe Girardi a right handed power threat on the bench.

    Don’t people ever listen to the language of Cashman’s words and thinking whenever he faces media?

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      It’s extremely unlikely he makes the opening day roster.
      He’s currently set to be a no-time player in 2014.

      • The Great Gonzo

        I bet you they trade him for nothing of value and send some cash just to make him go away.

        • Chris

          That’s what I’m thinking, if only for salary dump for Tanaka. I really hope they don’t dump Ichiro though. Yeah, I know he’s old, but he’s been my favorite player for years and I was so happy when the Yankees got him… So I’m really biased.

          • The Great Gonzo

            The move will be strictly a roster space move. No real salary relief to be seen.

          • xman

            I feel exactly the same.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      They may have hoped for that kind of production from his last season, and look what they got. You actually think they’re going to overly willing to give it another shot because they’re only paying him 2.4 mil?

  • pinch hitter

    What’s the chances of Ichiro wanting to stick around if he’s not getting regular AB? Most likely he’s only playing at this point to get 3000 hits and win a WS — two goals which are probably mutually exclusive. My guess is he’d probably welcome a trade to a team where he’s going to be more than the 4/5 outfielder, if there’s one out there.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      He’s also only played for two teams his entire MLB career. He may also just value standing put where he’s respected.

  • Dropped Third

    For the love of god cut Wells! I’d much rather see Zoilo on the 25 man than Wells or Ichiro. Ichiro is a great late inning replacement but how much value does that really carry? Zoilo has the potential to hit a bit AND be decent in the field. He also had a really good winter ball showing and I’d lkke to see what he could do with 150-200 AB’s this season.

  • sniff

    Makes more sense to trade Gardner.
    1)Trade value will never be higher 2)FA at end of season 3)Cant play RF

    • Need Pitching & Hitting

      Gardner’s the starting LF. Not sure why RF would matter, but he can play RF if need be, it just wouldn’t maximize his defensive value.

      Keeping Gardner makes them a much better team, unless they can actually turn Gardner into an above average SP or IF.

  • dars

    25 man roster (if rumored moves pan out)

    Outfielders (5): Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells

    Infielders (6): Teixeira, Roberts, Jeter, Johnson, Ryan, Baker/Young/Reynolds

    Catchers (2): McAnn, Cervelli

    SP (5): Sabathia, Nova, Kuroda, Tanaka, Pineda

    BP (7): Thornton, Robertson, Kelley, Balfour, Phelps, Betances, Claiborne

    Triple A depth: Canzler, Almonte, Anna, Nunez, Murphy, Romine, Warren, Cabral, Herndon, Nuno, Banuelos

    No room for Vernon Wells unless they do not sign another RH hitting infielder…

    • TheEvilUmpire

      ‘cept you already included him in your outfielder count…

      • Need Pitching & Hitting

        6 OF’s listed for 5 spots

      • Dars

        Exactly the point, there is no room for him that is why I listes him even though there are only 5,spots earmarked for the OF.

    • FLYER7

      Prefer Warren to Claiborne…

  • Baked McBride

    I can’t even imagine trying to sit like Ichiro is in the picture above

    • Betty Lizard

      Ichiro is . . . supple.
      Plus, his translator is a dish.
      Reasons enough to keep him on the roster in my book.

      • ropeadope

        Hope he sticks on the roster. Supple or not, he’s quite vulnerable to bowling balls in the pose above. Especially the head pin.

        • Betty Lizard

          Sadly true.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I’d be deftly afraid of even trying half of that.

  • Jeff NJ

    I would think Tanaka would like to play on a team with Ichiro and Kuroda. To me, that is enough to find a roster spot for Ichiro.

    • TLVP

      +1 -

      I would guess that Ichiro, Kuroda and Matsui are amongst the 100,000,003 most important recruiting tools

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I really don’t care either way here.

    I’d love to see whether he could finish his career, successfully, as an overpaid 4th outfielder in pinstripes. He’s a legend, class act, and I’m able to separate my frustration over his production from my love for him as a player. When he’s on, he’s still a sheer joy to watch.

    I also would completely get it if the Yanks were able to find the right deal and just played Zoilo instead.

  • Ichirold

    If EEEEEEEEduardo Nunez and Ichirold are on the opening day roster, this team will be carrying two of the worst baseball players in the league. Please, for the love of God, find a way to rid of them both forever.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Obvious Troll Is Obvious

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        What are you talking about? “Ichirold” posts here all the tim…..oh, no, he doesn’t.

  • rogue

    A couple of things about Ichiro:

    He’s 258 hits shy of becoming the first Japanese born player to reach 3,000 MLB hits. That’s a potentially huge financial boon for the Yankees brand in the Japanese market. He’s not doing it this year, but if the price is right, he could do it as a sub in 3 years.

    His presence wouldn’t hurt the recruitment of Tanaka.

    In limited duty he could still be effective. He is capable of hitting good pitching (2012 vs Detroit: 18 PA .353/.389/.529)

    • jjyank

      Please, please, PLEASE do not tell me that you’d be in favor of keeping Ichiro for multiple more years! I don’t care about Ichiro’s 3,000 goal. If he’s on the Yankees long enough to accomplish that, the Yankees made a huge fucking mistake.

  • rogue

    EDIT in my previous post: 2012 ALDS vs Detroit.

  • qwerty

    I hope that ichiro is traded. Maybe he’ll find a starting job somewhere and get his 3,000th hit. Give him two more seasons and he should get it.

  • Chip Rodriguez

    Eat most of his salary, send him back to Seattle so he can play his final days out in a Mariners uniform, and see if Mariners will give up some low level arm or prospect in return.

  • 461deep

    Ichiro okay as a late inning OF since he can sub- all 3 spots. Gardner does not hav9e a RF arm like Beltran and Wells although both along with Soriano much slower than they used to be. Off topic a shade but MLB had Paul Blair great fielder among 5 best CF ever. My take was there was no Joe DiMaggio despite that he had all the instincts they listed for Blair but covered a much larger CF in old YS. Their offense was not comparable. The Clipper gets no lovbecause he played only 13 years. But wait 9 rings that’s 69% as the teams and probably baseballs best all around player during his time. Put him in Ebbets field and imagine his numbers. To paraphrase what Yogi said: You had to see him play. Even Musial and Williams called him the best all around player.