Archive for Ichiro Suzuki

Via George King: Ichiro Suzuki is willing to wait for the Yankees to take care of business with Mariano Rivera and (potentially) Andy Pettitte before seeing if the team want to re-sign him for next season. “There has been a lot of interest (from other teams), but he enjoyed playing for the Yankees so much it’s hard for him to say no to the Yankees,” said Tony Attanasio, Ichiro‘s agent. “His preference is to stay there instead of going someplace else, but we will wait and see.”

Ichiro, 39, hit .322/.340/.454 (114 wRC+) in 240 plate appearances with New York this year thanks in large part to a torrid three-week stretch to close out the season. The Yankees are said to have some interest in bringing Ichiro back, though it would obviously have to be on a one-year deal worth far less than the $17M he made in 2012. My guess is that Brian Cashman & Co. will seek a younger, more long-term solution in right field via trade before looking to bring Ichiro back should (when) they come up empty.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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(Christian Petersen/Getty)

The Yankees need a right fielder and maybe a fourth outfielder depending on how they feel about Chris Dickerson and Melky Mesa, so let’s round up the latest on the outfield search…

  • At least five teams have already shown interest in Melky Cabrera, but the Yankees (and Mets) aren’t one of them. Given the team’s emphasis on makeup and character, I’m guessing they’ll steer clear of the Melkman following his PED fiasco. [Joel Sherman]
  • Brian Cashman said there is nothing new going on with Ichiro Suzuki, though he did acknowledge talking to his agent. The Yankees are reportedly open to re-signing Ichiro and he “strongly wants to stay” with the team. [Chad Jennings]
  • Unsurprisingly, Cashman hasn’t spoken to Scott Boras about bringing Andruw Jones back. The 35-year-old wants to keep playing, but the Yankees figure to go in a different direction after his miserable second half. [Dan Barbarisi]
  • Still nothing on Justin Upton; the Yankees are apparently not involved in any trade talks for the Diamondbacks outfielder. [Jon Heyman]
Categories : Hot Stove League
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Just four questions this week, but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us your questions throughout the week. A word of advice: I tend to write these things Thursday evening, so get your question in before then if you want me to answer it that week.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Nostradamus asks: I like the idea of Justin Masterson in pinstripes with his ground ball tendencies. If he can pitch close to his 2011 numbers he’d be a great pick-up. What would it take to get him? Maybe we can get Shin-Soo Choo in a package deal?

Masterson, 27, was awesome last year (3.21 ERA and 3.28 FIP) and kinda crappy this year (4.93 ERA and 4.16 FIP). In fact, if you look at his last four seasons, 2011 is the outlier, not 2012 — he pitched to a 4.63 ERA and 3.98 FIP from 2009-2010. The success last year came from a drop in walk rate (2.71 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and a big drop in HR/FB (6.3%). Those two rates bounced right back up to his career norms — 3.58 BB/9 (9.2 BB%) and 9.9% HR/FB — this year, hence the 2009-2010-esque performance.

I think there’s a disconnect between what people think Masterson is and what he really is, but he’s still on the right side of 30 and has been pretty durable in recent years. His sinker is ridiculous (career 56.0% grounders), but he doesn’t have a changeup and lefties tend to hit him pretty hard (career .351 wOBA against). I can’t think of many pitchers like Masterson who have been traded two years prior to free agency, but he’s not someone I think the Yankees should go out of their way to acquire. I think the price will be inflated relative to his actual production. Add Choo on top of that and I’m not even sure the Yankees have to pieces to get it done. The Indians want pitching, pitching, and more pitching, and the Yankees don’t have enough to spare.

Jeff asks: With Ichiro Suzuki interested in coming back next year and the Yanks seemingly interested in Torii Hunter, could you see both on the Yanks next year? Hunter could play RF with Ichiro as the righty-hitting DH (like Raul Ibanez). Or would you rather see a DH who’s a infielder?

Well, in that case I would recommend playing Brett Gardner in center, Hunter in right, Ichiro in left, and Curtis Granderson at DH. I don’t think the Yankees would sign both guys though unless Ichiro came really cheap, like true fourth outfielder money. A million bucks or two, that’s it. Even then it would still be tough to squeeze all four of these guys into the lineup since Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter need semi-regular reps at DH. I’m not sure how Ichiro or Hunter would adjust to part-time work like that, so I’d prefer signing a DH who is used to being platoon bat and sitting on the bench for a while. It’s not an easy adjustment. Infielder or outfielder depends on whether or not Eric Chavez returns, really.

Patrick asks: So its been reported to Joakim Soria would be willing to set up his idol Mariano Rivera. Awesomeness. How much would you be willing to spend and are you overly concerned that he’s had to have TJ twice?

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Yes, the second Tommy John surgery is a big concern. Tons of guys have it and the procedure is relatively routine, but only the first time around. The second time is much different. We culled together some data on two-time TJS guys at FanGraphs over the summer, and only pitchers we dug up who threw at least 300 innings after the second surgery were Doug Brocail, Chris Capuano, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Jason Frasor. Many other two-time TJS guys had more arm problems afterward, likely because there was something wrong (bad genes? bad mechanics?) that caused them to need the two elbow reconstructions in the first place. It’s also worth noting that a bunch of guys had the second procedure near the end of their careers, so they weren’t going to reach that 300-inning level anyway.

That said, Soria is a special pitcher because his track record is elite and he’s only 28 years old. He’s reportedly seeking a multi-year contract and that’s no surprise, but I don’t want to see the Yankees go more than one guaranteed year with him, especially if they’re serious about the 2014 payroll plan. A one-year deal ($4-6M?) with a club or even vesting option (based on appearances) would be ideal since it gives the club some protection in case he gets hurt again or just doesn’t pitch well. You can make the argument that it should be preferable for Soria since he’d be able to rebuild value and go back out on the market in search of a big contract next winter. If they guarantee him like $8M (salary plus buyout) and keep the deal to one guaranteed year, that would be perfect. Anything more would make me nervous.

Travis asks: So if A-Rod winds up having to DH a lot sooner than expected, is David Adams a legitimate internal option to play third base? My gut says no. Do you see the Yankees going after any free agent in particular to back up at third? Do they go after Chavez again? I’m worried about his durability if he sees increased workloads like he did last year.

Outside of Eduardo Nunez, who the Yankees say will stick to shortstop and only shortstop going forward, Adams is by far the team’s best internal hope for a third baseman. At least in the near future since guys like Dante Bichette Jr. and Miguel Andujar are way down in the low minors. It’s unlikely Corban Joseph can handle the position at the big league level and not because of his range or instincts or anything like that, he just doesn’t have the arm for it. That’s not an easy throw to make.

Adams could always hit, that was never really a question, but the injuries have been a problem these last three years. He missed an awful lot of time with the ankle problem and still hasn’t played a full, healthy season since 2009. I think there’s enough patience and bat control there for him to be a .280/.340 guy with doubles power in the show, maybe 10-15 dingers at his peak. Obviously that’s someone you’d rather have at second than at the hot corner, where teams typically expect more offensively. I think the Yankees will break him in as a utility man down the line, but for next year the plan probably involves bringing Chavez (or a similar player) back if he’s open to it.

Categories : Mailbag
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Nov
02

What Went Right: Ichiro!

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(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury was supposed to be minor. He was going to miss two or three weeks and come back as good as new. Then he had a setback. Then another setback. And then a date with Dr. James Andrews and before you knew it, his sliding catch in April turned into a near-season-ending, surgery-requiring elbow injury. Raul Ibanez did the best he could filling in at left field, but the Yankees lost a ton of speed and defense with Gardner’s injury.

Enter Ichiro Suzuki. A few days after Gardner’s surgery, the Yankees swung a trade with the Mariners to bring the 38-year-old Japanese superstar to the Bronx to fill that speed and defense hole. Ichiro had previously informed Seattle’s management that he was sick of losing and would welcome a trade to a contender, which is when New York got involved. Ichiro agreed to some conditions (he was going to play left, sit against lefties, hit near the bottom of the order), the Mariners ate some salary (roughly $4M), and the Yankees surrendered some spare parts (D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar). After 12 years in the Great Northwest, Ichiro officially became a Yankee on July 23rd.

Coincidentally enough, the Yankees were in Seattle at the time of the trade. Ichiro’s first game in pinstripes came against his former team, and he singled on a ground ball back up the middle in his first at-bat following a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd. His Yankees career started with a 12-game exactly-one-hit streak, and through his first 40 games with the team he hit .271/.297/.398, including a two-homer game against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. That was pretty much exactly in line with expectations considering his .268/.302/.342 batting line with the Mariners from the start of 2011 through the day of the trade. Ichiro had settled in nicely as that platoon left fielder at the bottom of the order.

(Jason Szenes/Getty)

The Yankees were playing rather intense games down the stretch in September after blowing a ten-game lead and finding out that the Orioles weren’t just going to go away. They were just one game up in the standings when they arrived at Camden Yards on September 6th for the start of an important four-game series, and that’s when Ichiro took his game up a notch. He went 3-for-4 in the series opener and 2-for-4 in both the third and fourth games to help the Yankees split the series and maintain their one-game lead.

The Blue Jays came to the Bronx about a week later and Ichiro took his game up another notch. He went 9-for-12 in the three-game series, including a 4-for-4 with four steals effort in the middle game that including the game-winning single in the eighth. He also had six hits in six consecutive at-bats against left-handed pitchers at one point during the series. The barrage continued, as Ichiro went 6-for-13 against the Athletics in the following series and closed his season out on a 37-for-94 (.394) run in the final 25 games of the season. He shed the platoon label and moved up in the order, becoming the full-time left fielder and two-hole hitter.

Ichiro was one of the team’s best hitters in the postseason (11-for-40, .275), and he ended the season with a .322/.340/.454 batting line in 240 plate appearances with the Yankees. He also stole 14 bases in 19 chances, including ten in 12 chances in the final 25 games of the season. Ichiro practically fell into the club’s lap — the Mariners initiated trade talks at the ownership level — but he fit New York’s needs and provided the spark they were missing without Gardner. Maybe that ridiculous 25-game finish to the season was him being rejuvenated by playing for a contender or maybe it was just dumb luck, but either way Ichiro was a huge reason why the Yankees were able to fend off the Orioles down the stretch and win another AL East title. Trade deadline rentals don’t get much better.

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Via Wally Matthews: The Yankees have expressed interest in re-signing both Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez to short-term contracts. The former “strongly wants to stay” with the club while Brian Cashman said the latter won’t be as cost-effective going forward following his hugely clutch season.

Ichiro, 39, posted a 114 wRC+ in 240 plate appearances with the Yankees while the 40-year-old Ibanez put together a 102 wRC+ with a number of massive late-season homers. New York bought low on both guys and they did a fine job, but I’m always wary of bringing back older guys like this after an unexpectedly strong season. I’d rather replace them during the offseason rather than at the trade deadline. Hopefully the Yankees consider both backup plans and will look for better solutions in right and at DH.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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Oct
29

Twelve Yankees hit free agency

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A total of 137 players around the league officially hit free agency today, including a dozen Yankees: Eric Chavez, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Lowe, Russell Martin, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki, and Nick Swisher. Rafael Soriano can join them if he opts out of his contract by Wednesday’s deadline, which seems likely. Feliciano’s inclusion in the list of free agents is an indication that the Yankees have already declined his $4.5M club option. That is not surprising at all after the left-hander threw zero meaningful pitches during his time in pinstripes.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players don’t even have to file for free agency anymore. They just hit the open market. I never understood the point of that anyway. Players are free to sign with new teams starting Saturday. Click here for the full offseason schedule.

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Via Joel Sherman: Ichiro Suzuki greatly enjoyed his time with the Yankees this season and “strongly wants to stay” with the club next year. Sherman suggests a one-year contract in the $5-8M range would get it done.

“We haven’t had our pro scouting meetings yet (but) when we do we will rank the available players and we will see where [Ichiro] ranks and how it fits once everyone starts engaging the market,” said Brian Cashman. The Yankees are likely to let Nick Swisher walk as a free agent this winter and Ichiro could theoretically step right into right field, but it would be a massive downgrade offensively and not a big enough of an upgrade defensively to compensate. My guess is the team will scour the trade market before circling back to Ichiro later in the offseason if nothing better pops up.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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(Seth Wenig / AP Photo)

The Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers almost a week ago, but it wasn’t until today that Joe Girardi conducted every manager’s annual end-of-season press conference. He said the team has yet to look back and evaluate the 2012 campaign just because everyone takes a few days off to be with their families and kinda get away from baseball immediately after the season ends. They’ll obviously evaluate the club top to bottom in the coming weeks. Here are the important notes from the press conference…

On Alex Rodriguez

  • “These were things that we evaluated a lot before we made our decisions,” said Girardi when asked about benching A-Rod in the postseason. “I don’t go back and second guess myself.”
  • Girardi has not yet spoken to Alex (or any other player for that matter) about their relationship, but said “that will take place … it just hasn’t yet.” He isn’t worried about things being strained but acknowledged that actions have consequences and he will deal with them if need be.
  • Girardi said he believes A-Rod was healthy in the postseason and was just struggling, particularly against righties.
  • “Can Alex be a very good player again? Absolutely, I don’t have any question in my mind,” said the skipper. He praised A-Rod’s baseball smarts and said he expects him to be his everyday third baseman next season.
  • Chad Jennings has Girardi’s full quotes about A-Rod if you aren’t sick of hearing about it yet.

On the playoffs…

  • “Yes it was somewhat puzzling,” said Girardi on the offense’s struggles. He attributed Robinson Cano‘s disappearing act to being pitched well and just falling into a poorly-timed slump. He did acknowledge that Robbie was frustrated, which likely compounded the problem.
  • Girardi said he doesn’t think the team’s unfavorable postseason schedule contributed to their lack of hitting, ditto all the tough games they had to play down the stretch in September. He basically said he doesn’t believe his team was worn out after a month of playoff-type games.
  • “I hope not,” said Girardi when asked if he may have he lost the trust of some players by sitting them in the postseason. “I was making moves trying to win ballgames … I’ve been honest with our players and I will continue to do that, and I will do my best for this organization to win every game.”
  • Girardi attributed the dull Yankee Stadium atmosphere in the postseason to a lack of scoring on the team’s part, nothing more. “I think our fans are very passionate about the Yankees (because) we see it even on the road.”

On injuries…

  • “(It has) not taken place,” said Girardi when asked if CC Sabathia has gone to visit Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. He is encouraged by his ace left-hander’s performance in September and the ALDS and he expects to have him in Spring Training. “We’re always concerned that it’s maybe something more than you think it is … I don’t like people going to see doctors (but) sometimes people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is okay.”
  • “We expect him to be back and playing for us next year on Opening Day,” said Girardi about Derek Jeter and his fractured ankle. He added that there are always concerns following a surgery, including Jeter pushing his rehab too hard and having some kind of setback.
  • Mariano Rivera did throw sooner than expected this year but Girardi never did ask him if he will definitely return next season. “I don’t think you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you have some interest in coming back,” he said.
  • There were no undisclosed or “hidden” injuries this year, so to speak. Russell Martin‘s hands are banged up but that is typical catcher stuff and isn’t a long-term concern.
  • Both hitting coach Kevin Long (elbow) and third base coach Rob Thomson (hip) will have surgery this offseason, if you care.

On free agents and the team moving forward, etc…

  • “There’s a lot of hunger and fire in him,” said Girardi about Andy Pettitte, but he doesn’t know if the veteran southpaw will return next year. He expects him to discuss things with his family before making a decision.
  • He mentioned briefly that like Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda is among the players who will make a decision about his future and playing beyond this year.
  • Girardi said he was unsure about Ichiro Suzuki coming back next year but he knows the veteran outfielder enjoyed his time in New York. He also praised Ichiro for making adjustments like playing left field and batting towards the bottom of the order.
  • “I think this kid has something to offer us,” said the manager about Eduardo Nunez while also acknowledging that his role for next year is undetermined because other parts of the club are unsettled. “There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, he has a lot to offer.”
  • “There’s a lot of players we have to decide what we’re going to do with, but I believe when Spring Training starts next year, we’ll be a championship club,” said Girardi, acknowledging that the team has a lot of players with open contract situations.
  • He also spoke about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power sources (specifically catcher, second base, and center field) and their ability of the offense to absorb the loss of a homerun hitter (i.e. Nick Swisher) if that happens this winter.
  • Girardi acknowledged that the team has a busy offseason coming but doesn’t expect the chaos to be a problem. “Sometimes quiet is a bad thing,” he joked.

On the status of him and his coaches…

  • “No. The pressure you see I put on myself,” said Girardi when asked about the pressure of entering a contract year. He doesn’t expect the team to talk about a new deal until his current one expires and he doesn’t anticipate asking for an extension before then either.
  • Girardi expects the entire coaching staff to return next year but again pointed out that the team has not yet discussed everything.

Miscellaneous…

  • Girardi praised his role players for stepping up into more prominent roles than expected this year, mentioning Raul Ibanez, David Phelps, and Cody Eppley by name.
  • When asked about Cano’s general lack of hustle down the line to first base, Girardi said he “will address with every player to play hard.”

2:26pm: Nevermind, apparently there was just a typo on the board in the press box. Ichiro is starting and batting second tonight.

2:20pm: Here’s a shocker: Brett Gardner is starting in left field over Ichiro Suzuki tonight. Ichiro is 7-for-12 lifetime against Orioles starter Jason Hammel, which leads me to believe he’s banged up. Curtis Granderson has moved up to second in the lineup while Gardner will hit ninth.

Categories : Asides, Offense
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Oct
02

The Return of Ichiro!

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(Mike Stobe/Getty)

I was very skeptical when the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners prior to the trade deadline. He could still run and play strong defense, but his  offensive production had really cratered these last two years. From the start of last season through the date of the trade, Ichiro hit just .268/.302/.342 in nearly 1,100 plate appearances. That’s not a small sample, and at 38 years old, I thought he was done as even a league average hitter.

The Yankees made the trade and I suppose they believed three factors would help spark Ichiro’s bat. One, he was going from a last place team to a legitimate World Series contender. Ichiro had 10-and-5 no-trade protection and had to approve the deal, which he obviously did. That was at least an indication that he was looking forward to the opportunity to play meaningful games again. Two, he was moving out of cavernous Safeco Field and into hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. Three, they were going to limit his exposure to left-handed pitchers by platooning him.

Ichiro started his Yankees’ career with a 12-game exactly-one-hit streak, but through his first 41 games and 140 plate appearances with the team he had hit just .271/.297/.398. Yankee Stadium did help him hit some homers (three to be exact), but he was only 4-for-7 in stolen base attempts and really didn’t provide that game-changing speed on the bases. My expectations were low and I was still pretty underwhelmed. Worst of all, the Yankees were slipping in the standings and their one notable trade deadline acquisition wasn’t having much of an impact.

That all started to change about a month ago. The Yankees were wrapping up an important ten-game stretch against the Orioles and Rays with four games in Baltimore, a four-game series in which Ichiro went 8-for-14 with a stolen base and three multi-hit games. In a three-game series against the Blue Jays two weeks ago, he went 9-for-12 with three doubles, a homer, and four steals. All four steals came in the middle game, a 4-for-4 effort in which the fourth hit drove in the game-winning run. At one point he had six hits in six straight plate appearances against left-handed pitchers as well.

Since the start of that series in Baltimore, Ichiro has hit .417/.411/.560 with nine steals (in eleven attempts) in 24 games and 90 plate appearances. That has raised his batting line with the Yankees to a stout .327/.339/.461 in 230 plate appearances, and his season batting line to a respectable .284/.309/.391 in 653 plate appearances. He has eleven multi-hit games in his last 24 contests, which is Ichiro of old stuff. Exclamation point Ichiro. Ichiro!

The hot hitting as prompted Joe Girardi to bump Ichiro up in the lineup, and he now hits second rather than eighth or ninth. The move has added some length to the batting order, and in a lot of ways it has recreated the Derek Jeter-Johnny Damon dynamic of 2009. Ichiro doesn’t hit for the kind of power that Damon did in 2009, nor does he walk or work deep counts as often, but he’s a far better defender and is creating more havoc on the bases. With the resurgent Jeter leading off and the hot hitting Ichiro behind him, the Yankees have two high-contact, high-average hitters setting the table for the big power bats.

I was really skeptical at the time of the trade, but Ichiro … ahem, Ichiro! … has gone on to prove me and every other doubter wrong these last few weeks. It’s not like he’s hitting .300 or something during a hot homestand, he’s hit over .400 for nearly four weeks while saving runs with his glove and taking extra bases with his legs. Ichiro has more than replaced Brett Gardner at this point, the very man whose injury created the need for the trade in the first place. He’s also gone from the world’s most famous complementary player to a key cog in an offense that has averaged 6.3 runs per game since he moved up in the batting order.

Categories : Offense
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