Archive for Ichiro Suzuki

Via Joel Sherman & Jon Heyman: The Yankees are positive they will re-sign Ichiro Suzuki, but it’s going to take a two-year contract because the Phillies offered him two years and $7M annually. George King reports that a few other clubs made two-year offers as well, and the two sides are talking about a $12-13M guarantee.

I didn’t love the idea of re-signing Ichiro to be the full-time right fielder to start with, but giving him two years would be pretty terrible in my opinion. That goes double when you consider a) they didn’t bother to make a two-year offer to Russell Martin (who is far more difficult to replace), and b) the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. A 39-year-old corner outfielder who’s posted a 93 wRC+ over the last three years (84 over the last two years) isn’t deserving of a multi-year contract.

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4:45pm: Buster Olney says the two sides are moving closer to a deal. It’s expected to get done in a few days.

11:30am: Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are hoping to re-sign Ichiro Suzuki within the next few days. Last night we heard the team was “showing strong interest” in bringing the outfielder back for 2013.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Ichiro move at the trade deadline and he obviously proved me very wrong with his play down the stretch, but I hope those three awesome weeks didn’t convince the team he still has something left in the tank. Ichiro is a historically great player, but he’s been pretty bad these last two years (.277/.308/.361, 84 wRC+) and is unlikely to improve at age 39. One defense-first player in the outfield is enough for me, no need for a second.

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5:00pm: According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are “showing strong interest” in Ichiro and are likely to re-sign him to a one-year contract. They’re also looking into trades involving Curtis Granderson, which we heard last week.

: Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are still talking to Ichiro Suzuki about a return next season while also hesitating to show interest in A.J. Pierzynski. They view the long-time White Sox backstop as just an average defender, and apparently catcher defense has become a top priority in the organization over the last few years. Non-updates really, though I suppose at some point the Yankees will have to stop sitting on their hands and make some moves on the position player side.

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Not from today, but basically the same thing. (Seth Wenig / AP Photo)

All 30 managers meet with the media for 30-ish minutes during the Winter Meetings, and Joe Girardi held his Q&A session late this afternoon. It’s pretty typical of Yankees people to speak a lot of words but not actually say much, and this was no different. I don’t have the audio to share because the quality is awful, but here’s a recap…

On Alex Rodriguez‘s injury

  • Girardi confirmed what Brian Cashman said yesterday, that A-Rod didn’t say anything about his hip until being pinch-hit for in Game Three of the ALCS. “His hips weren’t firing right. It wasn’t pain but he felt it was not the explosiveness … I was somewhat worried because he’d been through it on his right hip and you’d think he’d know what the feeling was like. It wasn’t firing the way he thought.”
  • A-Rod went for an MRI on his right hip after the game, and when it came back clean Girardi kept playing him. He did acknowledge Alex “did look different than he did before he got hurt.” The team doesn’t know exactly when the injury happened.
  • On losing A-Rod for the first half of next year: “It’s big. You go into an offseason and you feel you have to address certain areas and all of a sudden you get a little bit of a surprise. It’s a pretty big hole to fill, and it may not necessarily be (filled) with one person.”
  • “I’m not sure,” said the skipper when asked about any tension in his relationship with A-Rod. “It probably answers a lot of questions — he wasn’t the Alex we saw before the injury. Now we have a reason, possibly why.”

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A little more than a week ago we heard Ichiro Suzuki loved being a Yankee so much that he was willing to wait for them to handle other offseason business before seeing if the club had interest in re-signing him. Apparently he’s grown tired of waiting. “At the beginning we talked a lot but since that time, zero,” said agent Tony Attanasio to George King when asked about talks with New York. “As far as we are concerned we don’t care what the Yankees do. We have had conversations with multiple clubs. If we see something we like he will go through with it.”

This sounds an awful lot like a negotiating ploy — sign me before I sign somewhere else! — than actual frustration and a change of heart to me. King says the Yankees aren’t opposed to re-signing Ichiro to play right field, but he makes it sound like they don’t love the idea. “[We'll] move from the defense to the offense and engage all the players we have interest in and have interest in us,” said Brian Cashman to Anthony McCarron in response to Attanasio’s comment, essentially acknowledging that right field and catcher have become the priority since the pitching has been addressed.

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12:33am: Erik Boland hears there is “no truth” to the report, so the Yankees have not re-signed Ichiro. Joel Sherman says there’s aren’t even serious talks ongoing.

8:36am: According to Nikkan Sports (translated article), the Yankees have re-signed Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract worth $5M plus incentives. Sweeny Murti, however, says it is just a rumor and not a done deal. No offense to the reporters overseas, but I have more trust in the local scribes. That price certainly passes the sniff test though.

Ichiro, 39, has indicated he “strongly wants to stay” with the team and is willing to wait for them to take care of other offseason business first. If the Yankees do bring him back as the primary right fielder, adding a right-handed hitting outfielder for the bench will be an absolute must. The same goes for a big bat at DH, because they’re going to be losing quite a bit of offense by replacing Nick Swisher with Ichiro.

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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.

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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]
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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.

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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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