Ichiro Suzuki is going to fit in nicely inside the Yankee clubhouse and I love the trade. Acquired for a very modest price, you could wonder aloud if Seattle was feeling a little guilty about the damage that occurred in the Michael Pineda deal (now Jose Campos is lost for the season too). But that thinking could be dismissed as Jesus Montero isn’t exactly the player he’s thought to be (so far) and Ichiro is a lemon…right? Maybe not.
Before we get into that, lets look at the trade. Cashman, the love/hate executive responsible for building some great baseball teams has made another back door deal that caught us by surprise. Did anyone expect the most successful Japanese import to don pinstripes? Acquired for (basically) pitcher D.J. Mitchell, ranked 16th in the Yankees farm system in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, this deal may turn out to be an absolute steal for the Bombers. Mitchell has been very successful in the minors and could have had the potential to be the number one pitching prospect with the underachieving (and now inappropriately named) ‘Killer B’s’. With the way the Yankees structure their rotation, Mitchell may not have seen a spot in the rotation anytime soon. On top of that, we still get to see if Banuelos and Betances can turn themselves around to become the future of the starting rotation.
Here we are with a talent like Ichiro presumably running on fumes this year in the Pacific Northwest. Posting a woeful .281 wOBA, a so-so .261 average, and a paltry .640 OPS, it goes without saying this is the start of a major regression. But something interesting happens to players from time to time that go beyond numbers. When they join a team that’s winning, that has that positive frame of mind, and a team full of vets who know what it means to be successful, that type of atmosphere sticks to you. Ichiro fits right into the current Yankee mold and will have no problem playing in the New York spotlight. He also has several things going for him that could turn his season around- the desire to win being the big one. After a rousing career in Japan, he’s spend the last 10 years in the US floundering on a team that was good, but not good enough soon turning into a team that just wasn’t good. Ichiro knows his window isn’t closing, its about to slam shut. His last gasp of baseball air to get a ring couldn’t have come with a better team. The Yankees are excellent position to make a playoff run, despite having a handful of clunky, ‘overrated’ players.
But at 38, how much more can we expect from him? We can expect him to take Brett Gardener’s place not only defensively but offensively as well. At this point, it might be an even tradeoff, with an experience advantage to Ichiro. He’s still a running threat and can play strong defense. Judging by the way he played last night (23 July), he LOVES how good he looks in pinstripes. If we get that type of enthusiasm, even on a smaller scale, Ichiro’s impact could be what finally gets the Yankees back to the fall classic.
I’m going to predict that Ichiro will have a sizeable hand in the success of the team come fall; he knows it’s now or never. I mentioned before, the supporting cast is there to make his last grasp for a ring a little easier to reach.
On the side, I’d like to take a minute to recognize the class act Mariner fans. As bad as their team is, and the coincidence that they happen to be facing the Yankees that night, they exuded the utmost respect in a moment that could have yielded boos. How much of a shock is it to see the most recent storied player in their franchise suddenly hitting against them mere hours before the trade…in pinstripes no less? They could have booed him for seemingly turning his back on them. But the fans understood. He gave them excitement for a decade when there was none and I personally hope he retires and enters the hall as a Mariner, regardless of any potential success he has with the Yankees.
Right now, this is where he belongs.