Finding possible trade matches for Ichiro Suzuki

Monday Night Open Thread
Minors Notes: Top Ten, Murphy, DePaula, Jagielo

It could just be posturing, but Brian Cashman has said the Yankees are done with their major moves for the winter following the Masahiro Tanaka signing. The club still needs infield and bullpen help, but a trade involving similarly priced players is more likely than a free agent signing. Swinging a trade may be difficult because the Yankees don’t have many trade chips aside from Brett Gardner right now.

A few weeks ago we heard about a possible Ichiro Suzuki for J.J. Putz swap, but that seemed to be Ken Rosenthal’s speculation more than anything. The Yankees are shopping Ichiro and that trade is on the right track — it involves two players with similar salaries who have been marginalized by their teams this winter. Ichiro is an extra outfielder making $6.25M in 2014, Putz a middle reliever owed $7M. It’s a good ol’ fashioned baseball trade. Both teams fill a need by trading from a position of depth with no fancy accounting or throw-ins.

Finding a trade match for Ichiro is rather difficult. The Yankees need to find a team not only in need of a speedy, defense first outfielder, but a team with a similarly priced infielder or reliever to spare. Putz likely represents the best, most realistic case scenario. Here are four others who could be matches.

Mike Adams, Phillies
Philadelphia has been looking for bullpen help all offseason at least partially because their two-year investment in Adams has gone south. The 35-year-old was one of the two or three most dominant setup relievers in the game from 2008-12 (1.98 ERA and 2.67 FIP), but back and shoulder problems limited him to only 25 innings last season. Adams had surgery to repair small tears in his labrum and rotator cuff in June and then needed surgery for a sports hernia in December. GM Ruben Amaro told Todd Zolecki that Adams won’t be ready for the start of Spring Training and will probably have the start of his season delayed.

The Phillies had interest in Ichiro last winter and they could use a defensively minded extra outfielder right now, plus Amaro loves big names. Ichiro makes sense for them, but, given his age and injuries, Adams isn’t a great fit for the Yankees. He is owed $7M this coming season ($6M club option for 2015) so the salaries match up well, but the team couldn’t count on him to be ready in time for Opening Day. There’s a lot of risk here and Adams has a history of shoulder problems (also had labrum and rotator cuff surgery in 2008). It would be awesome if he could get back to being his 2008-12 self but I don’t see how anyone could reasonably expect that.


Brandon League, Dodgers
We all knew League’s three-year, $22.5M contract would be bad the day he signed it last offseason, but I don’t think anyone expected it to go so bad so soon. The soon-to-be 31-year-old had a 5.30 ERA (4.93 FIP) in 54.1 innings last summer and didn’t just lose his closer’s job, he lost a setup job and a middle relief job as well. League was pulling mop-up duty by mid-June. The Dodgers have a full bullpen and some interesting arms in the minors, so they’d probably jump at the chance to unload the $15M left on League’s deal even though they aren’t shy about having a sky high payroll.

Los Angeles has a shockingly bad bench despite being an NL team with a massive payroll, plus Matt Kemp recently said he might not be ready in time for Opening Day following offseason ankle and shoulder surgery. Adding someone like Ichiro seems like a wise move on their part. League was awful last year — his strikeout (4.64 K/9 and 11.2 K%) and homerun (1.33 HR/9 and 19.0 HR/FB%) rates both declined big time — but he was very good from 2011-13 (2.97 ERA and 3.00 FIP) and he has AL East experience after spending the first few years of his career with the Blue Jays. I don’t think adding someone signed through 2015 is a bad idea, but the Yankees would have to be absolutely convinced they can fix League if they’re going to take on that contract.

Sean Marshall, Reds
Marshall, 31, is the only lefty among the three relievers in this post, but he is no specialist. He dominated both righties and lefties from 2010-12 (2.47 ERA and 2.12 FIP overall) before missing most of last season with a shoulder strain. When he’s right, Marshall is a high strikeout (10.35 K/9 and 27.9 K% from 2010-12), low walk (2.47 BB/9 and 6.7 BB%), high ground ball (55.3%) reliever who can (and has) pitched in almost every situation. He was very, very good before that shoulder acted up last year.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Reds owe Marshall $12M over the next two years and they tried to trade him earlier this winter, but talks with the Rockies fell apart due to some lingering concern about his health according to Troy Renck. That’s obviously a red flag. Cincinnati will attempt to fill their gaping center field/leadoff hitter void with speedy rookie Billy Hamilton, but they have been looking for some outfield depth and insurance in case that doesn’t work. Ichiro is certainly capable of filling that role. Again, I’m not against adding a player signed through 2015, but the Yankees would need to look over Marshall’s medicals thoroughly before pulling the trigger.

Cliff Pennington, Diamondbacks
There aren’t many extra infielders making Ichiro money, so the 30-year-old Pennington is among the closest at $3.25M in 2014. He’ll also remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2015. Pennington is essentially the infield version of Ichiro — he can’t hit (76 wRC+ from 2011-13) but he’s an outstanding defender who won’t kill you as an everyday guy because of his glove. The problem is the Yankees have almost the exact same player in Brendan Ryan and I’m not sure how many no-hit, all-glove infielders one team can roster. Arizona has plenty of young infielders and Pennington could be the odd man out, but he’s not what New York needs right now. Trading Ichiro for him would be about saving $3M or so and putting it towards a free agent reliever.

* * *

Unless someone surprises them with an offer, I think the Yankees are best off holding onto Ichiro for another few weeks. Some team is bound to lose an outfielder or two to injury in Spring Training — that team could even be the Yankees! — which could improve his market. The Bombers have an obvious replacement in Zoilo Almonte, who is sound defensively and a switch-hitter who might actually provide some offense off the bench. Putz and the three relievers in this post all have some kind of injury and/or performance concern, but that’s what you get when you’re talking about trading pricey spare parts.

Monday Night Open Thread
Minors Notes: Top Ten, Murphy, DePaula, Jagielo
  • Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    If the Yankees were able to get Sean Marshall for Ichiro I would eat the kabakhat.

    • Meatafce

      me too. maybe we can split it

    • CS Yankee

      Not that your pain would be the Yankees gain, but he seems to be the gem of the group. however, the Rox aren’t the o’s in rejecting players due to medicals so some big caution may need to be observed.

  • The Great Gonzo

    Let me lead off by saying GREAT post, Mike. You guys take a lot of shit for “writing the obvious” (“pedantic onanism”, anyone?), but this is a great view at other spare parts and should shut the traps of the typical jagoffs (some of which will post comments in the next 30 minutes, I’m sure) that will inform you that its just SOOPER easy to trade Ichiro for a bag of balls…

    Its a great view of who’s potentially out there, and a solid conclusion that I happen to agree with: It may be cheaper to stand pat.

    That said, Sean Marshall please.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Er, smarter… not cheaper

      • TheEvilUmpire

        Freudian slip?

        • Onan the Pedantarian

          Nobody’s thinking outside the box. He’s 40 years old. Long before Spring Training ends he could very easily pull a hammy, or an oblique, or a calf, etc. etc. etc.

          He has great value in taking a 60-day DL spot and opening up a 40-man spot for another pitcher or Dean Anna or whoever.

  • Leg-End

    I’m with Mike on this one, hold onto him through Spring and there is bound to be either an injury to a Yankee or a team desperate for an outfielder.

    That being said if Marshall is healthy I’d jump at it.

  • John in Forest

    I think Ichiro will start the year with New York. I can see him being traded during the season when another team loses an outfielder to injury and needs a major league-ready guy.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’m glad we’re avoiding the “trade Ichiro out of sheer anger” talk here. I don’t feel like there should be any rush to trade him unless something beneficial to the team this season comes back (this is just fine, of course, as not many will be in any rush to trade FOR him either.)

    I have no issue going into the season with Ichiro in the legend-as-4/5 outfielder role. I know it may leave poor Zoilo in AAA, but that’s life.

    Marshall is obviously my favorite choice here, but I’d feel bullish as to fixing League, just maybe not at what he’s making.

    That Putz idea Rosenthal had, though? My favorite easily.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Yeah I’d take Putz in a heartbeat.

      All the above said, the Ichiro signing is still such a head scratcher to me. It made no sense in the context of plan $189mm, and even less sense since the plan was jettisoned.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I’ve always underreacted to the signing compared to most on here, probably because I never thought they’d actually pull the trigger on the celery cap when push came to shove.

        I thought a year as misplaced regular and a year as fourth outfielder wasn’t a terrible idea, but wasn’t a particularly great one either.

      • The Great Gonzo

        Actually… I would say the plan for Ichiro in the $189M made some sense if (and here is the sticking point) he could provide similar offense that he showed after the trade. A short term, durable, above average defensive center fielder with speed and some left handed offensive value? For $6M? Sure, he wasn’t ‘Ichiro the legend’ anymore, but plenty serviceable for a team trying to compete on the cheap…

        That said, his bat went noodle, he started cheating on the fastballs, and looked foolish on ALOT of at bats. And then, the Jacoby era began and here we are.

      • ALZ

        It made no sense. He wasn’t really an any better player than Schierholtz, and then Nate decided to have a good year.

  • Farewell Mo

    If they can get a useful piece fine though I’d be fine with him as 4th outfielder since you’re gonna want to replace Soriano or Beltran late in games anyway not to mention one of them is bound to get hurt at some point.

    It wouldn’t be the worst thing to give Zoilo regular ABs in AAA for another year.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      And he’d likely be the 4th OF as soon as one of the regulars got hurt.

      • Farewell Mo


        I usually hate to see a young player not get regular ABs but on the other hand, he’s a nice bench piece.

  • Kosmo

    The Reds can have Ichiro for a bag of balls. The Rocks are interested in Marshall, I wonder what the Reds want in return ?

    Putz for Ichiro works for me too.

    • The Great Gonzo

      There it is. Like clockwork.

  • LK

    If the Yankees are actually up against their budget, and not just posturing for agents by saying that, then trading Ichiro for salary relief makes sense, and it doesn’t really matter who they get back.

    I personally am pretty skeptical that the Yanks are tapped out, I think they just don’t think there are any good values available in FA at the moment (and they could certainly be right depending on what the asking prices are). In that case, I think they might as well hang on to Ichiro, unless some team is surprisingly bullish on him. Giving him the contract was a mistake, but they can’t do anything about that now.

    • jjyank

      Someone made an interesting point the other day regarding the payroll. The 2014 budget may not be tapped out (I agree with you in my skepticism there) but perhaps the 2015 budget is if they are expecting A-Rod’s salary back on the books.

      Now that said, who knows what will happen to A-Rod. Buy out, retirement, straight release, another drug violation, etc. So it might be foolish to hold back in 2014 in deference to 2015 because of that uncertainty. But I think it’s an interesting point to consider.

      • LK

        Totally agree there. I meant saying that trading Ichiro for salary relief only helps for 2014, and I’m doubtful they really need salary relief for 2014. I guess it’s possible that freeing up some money now would make them feel comfortable spending some more on future payrolls, but I don’t think shedding Ichiro’s money is going to cause them to sign Ubaldo or Drew or someone like that. Basically, there’s no reason to get rid of Ichiro just to do it, as I see it.

        • jjyank

          Agreed. I’m really only interested in trading Ichiro if he can upgrade the team elsewhere. I’m not sure a straight salary dump really helps the team much.

          Also, Ichiro is not Vernon Wells. He still does have some value in speed and defense at least. We learned last year just how important depth can be.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I expect the same approach to 2015 than I do to 2014. The celery cap isn’t going to stop them from getting the player they want, if that player is out there.

  • FLYER7

    Jeff Baker to the Cubbies

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Not seeing that on MLBTR yet.

      Would have been a nice piece, if true. As a rule, I don’t lose sleep over Jeff Baker.

      • jjyank

        All I can find is that Baker is close to a deal, but a team isn’t named.

  • gbyanks

    Trade ichiro, sign bonifasio, keep almonte in AAA. Having emilio on the team would allow you to have 3 infielders on the bench which would be great for this team. Bonifaso would be the 5th outfielder and the backup to roberts and sizemore or nunez can be the platoon partner for kelley. almonte is still young and hit decently in AAA im not ready to force him into a 5th outfielder job that will only play 1 a week. Give that job to bonifaso. An infielder on the bench that can play the outfield would be huge for this shaky infield

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Wouldn’t be opposed as long as I knew what I was getting for Ichiro.

    • The Great Gonzo

      I am not opposed to Bonafacio, TBH, although he is essentially Kelly Johnson without the bat.

      Point being, you don’t know what you will get for Ichiro. To trade him for the sake of trading, you may as well keep him and wait for someone to need him. More value in the trade that way

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Without the bat but with more speed, fwiw.

        • The Great Gonzo

          I’ll take that. But shit man… we NEED that bat more than another guy who can’t get on base but runs out pop-ups really well (well, the opposite of Cano then, really).

      • jjyank

        “To trade him for the sake of trading, you may as well keep him and wait for someone to need him.”

        Agreed 100% with that.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      I don’t think there’s any chance Bonifacio make it to the open market, he is going to be traded.

      • gbyanks

        trade ichrio for bonifasio. problem solved lol

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          I actually wouldn’t do that.

  • Masahiro Dinero

    I’m totally fine with Ichiro on the team as a 4th/5th outfielder.


    Veteran Presents
    Masahiro Mentorship
    Dependable Depth
    Legen name on… wait for it… dary team

    All in all a fine fit for the 20somethingth man on the roster

    • jjyank

      If an Ichiro trade can upgrade the team elsewhere, he should absolutely go. However, I lean more towards your general view. I’m not on the “trade Ichiro for a bag of balls” crowd. And I see that line has already been dropped here. Ichiro is no great shakes anymore, and I was very much against signing him, but Ellsbury and Beltran carry some durability concerns and depth is important.

  • Dicka24

    I’d love Putz the most. Would totally be in on Marshall, so long as the medicals are within reason. I wouldn’t touch League at $15 million (I laughed when I saw his deal the day they signed it). I’d be curious about Adams, depending on the medicals. He’s good when he’s healthy. Forget Pennington.

  • The Great Gonzo

    This wold be a fun exercise to do with Gardner too. Wait, did we already have that post?

  • Hank and Hal’s Excellent Adventure

    I’d love to see this post but with Ichiro as a salary dump for a borderline middle infield prospect – someone who might be a bit older but clearly better than Nunez.

    • The Great Gonzo

      We already got that guy, his name is Dean Anna

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Then trade Ichiro for him.

  • MikeHC

    Last off season is the gift that keeps on giving. I can’t remember the last time the yanks had such a poor off season. Thankfully they made up for it this year, and then some.

  • TWTR

    I would be weary of taking on money in 2015 unless it was clear that it wouldn’t prevent Hal from be willing to spend on some of the potential infield free agents that could become available after the season.

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    Ichiro is fine for the fifth outfielder, and there should be no doubt we will need one. I wouldn’t trade him, or Gardner for that matter, unless we got something good in return, not someone else’s problems. We need three thing: a 3B, a 2B, and one more reliable RP. Management obviously disagrees. So what you see is what you get.

  • FLYER7

    I’ve seen reports of Baker to the Cubs, Mariners and Marlins today? Where did he land?

  • vicki

    putz is an answer in today’s times crossword puzzle.

  • ALZ

    I would jump at the Putz deal, Marshall could be fine too.

  • rogue


    Ichiro’s slash in 18 PA vs Detroit in the 2012 ALDS. He can still hit good pitching. That’s not to mention he’s only 258 hits shy of 3000. Yes, he wont get it this year, but he could get it in 2015, which would further enhance the Yankees brand in the Japanese market. Plus, I expect at least minor injuries/rest across the starting OFs, so Ichiro could still be a valuable 4th OF. That said, I’d rather have him than any of the stiffs mentioned.

  • Ariel

    Putz would make an excellent addition to the bullpen, but I have some difficulty with the surname “Putz” playing in New York, irrespective of the way he pronounces it.

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    Could be worse. His name could be schmuck.