About that Ichiro for J.J. Putz trade speculation

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

The Yankees need bullpen help and they have some extra outfielders lying around, ergo trading an outfielder for a reliever seems like an obvious move to make. It’s not that easy though. It takes two teams to tango and the outfielders worth trading aren’t all that appealing. Finding a trade match won’t be easy. Then again, Ken Rosenthal threw this out there late Saturday night:

Don’t be surprised if the Diamondbacks trade right-hander J.J. Putz following their addition of former White Sox closer Addison Reed. Putz is signed for $7 million in 2014, and the D-backs most likely would be required to accept a comparable salary in return.

Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, earning $6.5 million, could be one possibility, though it is not known whether Yankees ownership would part with Suzuki or how he would adjust to a backup role.

First things first: that’s not really a rumor. It looks like speculation more than anything. Of course, it also seemed like speculation when Rosenthal said the Phillies could trade Cliff Lee to the Mariners for prospects and then acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays a few years ago, so who knows. (The original Lee-Halladay story seems to be gone, sadly.) The man is well-connected and his speculation tends to be informed speculation, so maybe there are some legs to an Ichiro-Putz swap.

The Diamondbacks overhauled their roster this offseason and part of that overhaul included trading for Reed, who figures to take over as closer. Putz was shaky early last season before landing on the DL for two months with an elbow problem in early-May. He never did get his closer’s job back, instead spending the rest of the year in a setup role. Putz, who will turn 37 next month, had a 2.36 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 34.1 innings in 2013. From 2010-2012, he posted a 2.60 ERA (2.48 FIP) in 166.1 innings. He was excellent.

Injuries, specifically elbow injuries, have been a big problem for Putz over the years and therein lies the risk. He’s had two elbow surgeries (nerve problem in 2008 and bone chips in 2009) and dealt with various strains and inflammation (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013) throughout his career, so missing time last summer was not exactly a surprise. He’s an even bigger risk now that’s approaching 40, but, when he’s healthy, Putz is pretty good. Certainly better than most of the guys the Yankees currently have lined up for the bullpen.

One potential obstacle standing in the way of an Ichiro-Putz trade is Arizona’s outfield depth. They aren’t the only team with a logjam. The D’Backs are currently slated to go into the season with Mark Trumbo in left, A.J. Pollock in center, and Cody Ross in right with Gerardo Parra the heavily used fourth outfielder. Tony Campana, who is very similar to Ichiro at this point, is the fifth outfielder. Maybe they prefer Ichiro’s experience and name value to whatever Campana brings to the table.

Ichiro’s role on the Yankees right now is basically pinch-runner and defensive replacement. Not exactly hard to replace. They’ve been shopping him in hopes of saving some money but trading him for a useful (albeit risky) bullpen arm like Putz would be even better. Their contract situations are similar — they’re owed almost identical salaries in 2014 as Rosenthal pointed out, and both guys will become free agents next winter — and the Yankees would take a step towards addressing a pressing need. I don’t really care how the deal would help the D’Backs, to be honest. All I know is if they’re open to dealing Putz for Ichiro, the Yankees should jump all over it.


  1. Duci says:

    Don’t even think about it jj putz is a bum

  2. Rizzo says:

    Over/under 50 games for Jeter at DH?

    • RetroRob says:

      Under. Four-man OF rotation will eat up a good portion of the DH time. If Jeter is hitting he’s playing, he’ll be playing SS. If he’s not hitting, he’ll get decreased playing time as the season progresses, and almost no DH time.

    • Iron Horse says:

      Over. We really need to see how solid he is physically before making a judgement, but I don’t think he can play in the field every day, nor do I think it helps the team to have him at short every day, or to even presume that he will be able to do it. Hope he proves me wrong, but, I’d rather see him batting every day than in the field every day…which leads to whether moving Ichiro is a good idea. I have to agree Putz for Ichiro is the best swap I’ve heard so far, but trading Ichiro almost guarantees Wells a role in the outfield. And that I do not like!
      Wells keeps saying how much he wants to stay with the Yankees, but his actions in the field say otherwise.
      A motivated and some how rejuvenated Wells would make Irchiro departing more palatable. But as things stand now, I’d keep Ichiro and pencil in Jeet as the DH…yeah, I know, that makes the infield a bunch of question marks, but we can save that discussion for another time…

  3. George says:

    I’d do the deal in a heartbeat. Ichiro isn’t going to get much if any playing time, 3,000 hits is off the table and even though his name may still carry some weight in Japan, it’s hard to market a guy that’s been relegated to 5th outfielder :-/

    • Laz says:

      Right. Even if one of the top 4 outfielders gets hurt then I figure that Jeter then shifts to dh with Ryan starting more often than Ichiro starting.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      I gotta agree. At least with Putz, you still have a chance at a above avg season. Ichiro is way past that. The guy played often last yr, and did next to nothing. Even if Putz only has a small chance of being old Putz, its still a better chance then Ichiro has of being the old ichiro, and its a bullpen arm, which on paper is a area of weakness and OF is not. Do the deal, if it becomes more then speculation, please.

      • nycsportzfan says:

        Oh wow, didn’t realize Putz actually hasen’t been pitching badly at all the past few seasons. Even more reason to do the deal, if it does in fact become more then speculation.

  4. Darren says:

    Doesn’t really seem like a great trade fit, although we could obviously use a good bullpen arm more than a big name Charlie Gipson. Unless we’re getting under $189mm, I really don’t mind having Ichiro around for the inevitable injury to Gardner or Ellsbury. If he actually has a chance to rest, I could see him showing some spark and hitting a little bit in a very limited role.

  5. ryan says:

    I hate it when journalists make up trade speculation because they are bored and have nothing else to write about. At least wait until you get information from an “team official”, which is probably the locker room janitor most of the time.

  6. nsalem says:

    Can’t see the D-Backs motivaion to make this trade. Would imagine they would be asking for prospects also.

    • jsbrendog says:

      well a reliever his age making what he makes isnt really worth that much right now. maybe he would be at the deadline if he continues to do well and is healthy…

      but yeah, they have absolutely no seeming use for ichiro as it stands right now

    • mike says:

      i would definitely throw in one of fringy pitchers the Yanks seem to produce to help grease the wheels for this trade…irrespective of the $/ salary cap, this would solve a huge roster problem (and perhaps personality issue), and unfortunately if Ichiro is on the Yanks he will get playing time – and if someone gets hurt he will be playing regularly ( see wells, vernon 2013)

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

        Personality issue? I don’t follow.

        • mike says:

          because (reportedly) Ichiro isnt the best teammate/clubhouse guy, and having a brooding international superstar relegated to playing 10 innings a month isnt the best thing for a business

          • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

            That seems pretty speculative. I’d never heard such a thing. Any links?

          • Deep Thoughts says:

            The only time I heard this was in his last days as a Mariner. Nobody questioned his hard work, preparation, or leadership by example, but the decade of losing led him to do his job and go home.

            All I’ve heard since he came to NY is how much fun he has and how great he is hanging with fellow stars like Jete and Alex.

          • RetroRob says:

            As a Yankee he’s supposedly been a great club house guy. I think he felt great pressure on him in Seattle, so coming to NY was a good thing for him where he became an almost secondary figure behind the Jeter’s and the A-Rod’s and Sabathia’s and Rivera’s and Pettitte’s…well, you get the idea.

            I’ve read he speaks English with his teammates and has a good sense of humor.

  7. Kosmo says:

    I agree NY should jump all over it. Putz if healthy is an excellent RP.

  8. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    I’d do it. I’d even throw in a couple of bow ties for Rosenthal as a broker’s fee.

  9. Tom says:

    There are only two possible issues with this
    1) It might actually increase the chances of Wells making the roster (as the 5th OF), even if Zoilo could do the same or better job.

    2) Adding a 7mil arm to the pen might dissuade the Yankees from adding a legit back end option in FA. While Putz COULD fit this role, like a lot of other aspects of the team he is yet another question mark. If they are still planning on adding a good arm beyond this, then they should go for it.

    If this is a budget issue, I can see doing it. If not why not pay Balfour basically the same amount who is probably a safer bet (the O’s medical team notwithstanding).

    • mike says:

      because its for only 1 year, and you are also getting rid of Ichiro without having to cut him or burn a roster spot on him

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      We’re getting way too tied up in Balfour, I’m still not convinced he’s going to sign here to set up Robertson, and I think giving him the closing gig over Robertson right off the bat is about as dumb a move as can be done.

      I don’t we need a top guy. A solid vet will do in solidifying what’s already here, aand there’s more than one way to skin that cat.

      • Tom says:

        It’s not just Balfour… I’ve heard the same dumb strawman that Robertson has to get a shot/deserves a shot as a reason/excuse for passing on other quality arms.

        The Yankees need a late inning reliever. They currently have one. After that they have a bunch of 6th/7th inning type guys, some unproven commodities (Betances, eventually Montgomery) and a LOOGY (Thornton).

        They need an arm for the 8th/9th and there aren’t many left on the market. For the Yankees to pass on a guy because Robertson needs to close is silliness. If they can find a guy to setup him up, great. If the only kind of guy they convince to sign is someone who wants to close, well then Robertson sets up, where he is more valuable anyway, and so be it.

        This notion that the Yankees have to pass on guys who want to close because of Robertson “deserves it” sounds like a convenient excuse/rationalization not to go after some of these guys.

        • Caballo Sin Nombre says:

          They need Robertson to at least get a shot at closing; because if they don’t, they will not retain him when he becomes eligible for free-agency. Someone else will give him a shot as a closer, and that will be that. It’s not because he “deserves it”; it’s because it gives the team the best shot at retaining a valuable talent.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

            Exactly and that, in no way, resembles the counter argument Tom is arguing against

          • Tom says:

            How much does it improve their chances? Specifically? This sounds nice, but having just watched Cano go to a shitty team for the money, because the money the Yankees showed him was a lack of respect, all this is, is idle speculation.

            You know what the best shot at retaining him is? Show him the money. If it was so important he should have been extended by now. And if Robertson doesn’t want to do an extension and wants to test FA, then what does that tell you about his plans and priorities?

            I’m not saying pickup a closer at all costs, but if that is the only option for bringing in a quality arm and not rolling the dice on a setup man with a career ERA, FIP and xFIP around 4 (which apparently folks around here do not seem to realize is not that good?), then you do it. You don’t punt on the pen based on some idle speculation that Robertson’s feelings will be hurt and he won’t resign. If that happens, then you deal with it next year.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

              If David Robertson has another elite year as a set-up man, he’s going to close somewhere in 2015. You might as well see if he can close for your team in 2014.

              I can’t understand the opposing point of view here. Sorry.

  10. mike says:

    IMO its about turning a basically-worthless asset (Ichiro) turn into something potentially valuable (late inning reliever) with a salary wash.

    those are the deals you make all day long, and if another AA player needs to jump on the shuttle with Ichiro to make this happen, it would be an immediate upgrade to the 25 man roster.

  11. Mike says:

    Any chance we can package one of our prospects with Ichiro to grab Miley or Corbin?

    They would be great additions to our starting pitching.

  12. the Other Steve S. says:

    I love the fact that Mike refers to a 2.60 ERA as excellent, which it is, and I reflect on Mariano’s 2.02 over the same time span. Damn, we were seriously spoiled. For fans that have never experienced the real world when it comes to closers, watch out!

  13. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    From Darren, above:

    I really don’t mind having Ichiro around for the inevitable injury to Gardner or Ellsbury. If he actually has a chance to rest, I could see him showing some spark and hitting a little bit in a very limited role.

  14. Dicka24 says:

    I would do the deal in a heartbeat, if it were offered. Like someone pointed out, this would be salary neutral more or less, but would transfer that money from a roster surplus, to a roster need. Putz is pretty much the type of arm the Yanks wouldn’t mind having right now. A proven veteran closer on a short deal. I wish Arizona had a need for Ichrio, but I don’t see it. Maybe the deal can get done with a minor leaguer of marginal value tossed in. Towers did work for the Yankees FO for a few years, so he might have a name he likes, that the Yanks would be willing to part with to make it happen. Again though, I can’t imagine the Dbacks would want to move a good bullpen arm for a 5th OF. Especially if it doesn’t include salary relief.

  15. Get Phelps Up (looking for a new name) says:

    Putz is too soft for New York

  16. vicki says:

    it’s possible that sportswriters, in speculating on potential trades, actually plant the ideas in the heads of gm’s. like a hot stove uncertainty principle.

  17. Charles says:

    Would straight out releasing a player, aka Ichiro, cause what his contract was supposed to be to be added to the payroll counted for the Luxury tax?

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