<
>
Insider

The downside of the Ichiro trade

7/24/2012

The Yankees' trade for Ichiro Suzuki is interesting in the same way that Joe Namath playing for the Los Angeles Rams was interesting. Ichiro is an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer and has been an amalgam of hits, stolen bases, Gold Glove Awards and All-Star votes in his career, but it's unclear how he represents an upgrade for the New York Yankees, other than for their network.

Others ahead of him in his OPS neighborhood this year are Jeff Francoeur, Rickie Weeks and Drew Stubbs. DeWayne Wise, who the Yankees designated for assignment to make room for Ichiro, had a .778 OPS in 53 plate appearances with New York -- significantly higher than Suzuki's OPS in each of his last three full seasons.

Ichiro embraced this and essentially made it happen, and he has indicated a willingness to go along with whatever Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants. Ichiro could be energized, in theory, by shifting from an exhausted situation to something better. Think Kevin Youkilis going from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox. If Suzuki is surrounded by better players in a ballpark better-suited for hitters, this could create opportunities.

But is also has the chance to become something of an embarrassment.

If he doesn't play well -- and there is a lot of evidence that could be the case -- then Girardi will have a revered 10-time All-Star sitting on his roster.

There are other hitters who get on base more, who hit for more power, who are better-suited to take advantage of the dimensions in Yankee Stadium. Ichiro is still a good outfielder, and he can run. There are many other outfielders who have those two particular skills.

If it doesn't go well, Girardi is going to have to immediately feel comfortable with the idea of pinch-hitting for an all-time great. He will have to fight empathy in making his choices. He may feel compelled to play Ichiro purely out of a sense of deference to Ichiro's extraordinary history.

In 1973, Willie Mays was 42 years old, in the final season of his career, and he played 45 games in the outfield for the New York Mets -- all in center field. Nobody was ever going to tell Willie Mays he wasn't the center fielder -- a practice that continued through the World Series that year and went badly at the end.

Mays' OPS in that regrettable final season was .647. Ichiro Suzuki's OPS this morning is .640.

The acquisition of Ichiro made it a big day for the Yankees, Girardi said. The Yankees are hoping for the best, writes John Harper. Ichiro is a famous supplementary part for the Yankees, writes Joel Sherman.

In Seattle, there is relief that Ichiro is gone. This saves the Mariners from barreling headlong into a situation identical to the Ken Griffey Jr. debacle two years ago.

Fans are coping with Ichiro's departure.

Notes on the Ichiro trade

From ESPN Stats & Information

• The Yankees acquired Ichiro for 25-year-old right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.

• Ichiro's $17 million salary this season gives him the fourth-highest salary on the Yankees (after Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia) and makes him the team's 12th $10M man this season (including $11.5M being paid to A.J. Burnett).

Highest career BA among active players (min. 3,000 PA)

Albert Pujols: .326

Joe Mauer: .324

Ichiro Suzuki: .322

Todd Helton: .320

• The Yankees now have three players with at least 2,500 career hits (Ichiro, Rodriguez and Derek Jeter).

From Elias Sports Bureau: Only two teams in MLB history have had three players with at least 2,500 career hits at the time they were together: A's in 1927 (Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Zack Wheat) and A's again in 1928 (Cobb, Collins, Tris Speaker).

• While Ichiro's bat is not what it once was, his glove is still golden. According to Fangraphs.com, Ichiro ranks second among all corner outfielders in defensive runs saved. According to that same metric, Ichiro joins a group that ranks second-worst in the American League.

Defensive runs saved in 2012 by Yankees corner outfielders

Ichiro Suzuki: 12

Andruw Jones: 2

Nick Swisher: minus-3

Raul Ibanez: minus-4

Ichiro's last four seasons (BA/OPS)

2012: .261/.640 (both would be career worsts)

2011: .272/.645

2010: .315/.754

2009: .352/.851

Comparing Ichiro to Wise, Ibanez and Jones trio (Ichiro/trio)

OPS: .640/.728

Slug pct.: .352/.429

Homers: 4/16

RBIs: 28/45

Elsewhere

• The Miami Marlins were baseball's biggest story coming into this season, and now they are its greatest disaster after fewer than 100 games. The trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for Jacob Turner means that Miami is veering, again, back into familiar ground. The Marlins are willing to deal Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson and anybody else not nailed to the floor, and what South Florida has again, after its investment in a new ballpark, is an unwatchable team for the final two months.

The first season-ticket holders in the history of the Marlins' new park bought their tickets expecting to see a world-championship caliber team and instead, in August and September, they will see a lot of the same type of players the Marlins have been fielding for most of the last decade -- young, talented, cheap and unaccomplished.

Now can you understand why Pujols wanted a no-trade clause when the Marlins pursued him in free agency last winter?

GM Larry Beinfest said the Marlins have given up on this season. Johnson threw great in what was essentially an audition for other teams.

The Tigers are playing well, and they got even better without giving up prospect Nick Castellanos. Infante and Sanchez give Detroit exactly what it needs in its unflinching effort to win a World Series this year: a good second baseman and a solid presence at the back end of the Tigers' rotation.

Turner is an excellent addition for the Marlins' baseball operations department. But it's the kind of white-flag trade that has been executed far too many times in this franchise's short history.

Mark Simon has more on how good Johnson was against the Atlanta Braves.

• The Braves are waiting for Ryan Dempster to say yes.

• The Texas Rangers figure to be one of the more aggressive teams in the trade market in the next eight days in the aftermath of the season-ending injury to Colby Lewis. Texas is looking for elite talent -- Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke.

• The Philadelphia Phillies are waiting to see if Hamels is going to take their offer.

• The Rays' players are trying to block out trade rumors.

• The Los Angeles Dodgers are putting together a pretty amazing road trip, at a time when it is badly needed.

• The Colorado Rockies should play Todd Helton, writes Troy Renck.

• The Red Sox are keeping Jon Lester in their rotation.

• Ken Kendrick, CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, says Arizona is better off with Justin Upton on the team.

• Nolan Ryan says Josh Hamilton gives away at-bats.

• We'll be back at the column on Wednesday with a full set of links.

And today will be better than yesterday.