While some of this may be wishful thinking, there are two New York Yankees who have to stay next year; Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. Both players filled in this year in big ways and both had contributions that one would wonder where the Yankees would be without them. For Suzuki and Ibanez, neither had any ideas that they would be Yankees before 2012 and now that they are, they’ve become a couple of the most reliable players on the team. Suzuki’s value may be a little higher as right field may be a vacant spot if the Yankees do not re-sign Nick Swisher. For Ibanez though, if he is re-signed, the Yankees will have answered their DH dilemma, at least for another year. These two are players that the Yankees must keep going forward because their contributions have been huge.
Suzuki has easily warranted an extension in my mind. There’s the saying that perhaps a player “needs a change of scenery” and that very well have been the case with him. His numbers with the Yankees in 67 games in the regular season dramatically improved over the 95 games with the Mariners. His slash line with the Bombers (.322/.340/.454) was well above what it was the Mariners (.261/.288/.353) so that speaks to that fact that yes, maybe Suzuki needed that change of scenery to improve his quality of play.
Defensively for Suzuki, he’s a blessing in disguise. When the trade become official back in July, there were many questions floating around about where he’d play, where his position in the line-up was, so on and so forth. However, Suzuki’s versatility in the outfield has been something the Yankees have needed; especially knowing that Brett Gardner wasn’t assured of coming back. Even Suzuki’s UZR (13.5) in 2012 is still high for someone of his age. He’s been a much needed addition. Suzuki also only committed one error in the entire 2012 season and may be looking at a possible Gold Glove Award for his efforts.
For Ibanez, his contributions this season have not gone unnoticed. His role was at first a combination of DH and sometimes left field after Gardner’s injury that he would occasionally split with Andruw Jones. What we got out of Ibanez was something nobody saw coming, a clutch hitter. Now, it’s a little hard to measure “clutch” hitting in terms of stats, but he’s definitely provided a hit when the team needed it the most. Take last Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox for example. With the AL East on the line, this was a game that the Bombers needed to win, and they did thanks to Ibanez. With two on, two out in the bottom of the 12th, Ibanez hit a single that scored Francisco Cervelli, just a few innings after a game-tying homer which moved the Yanks that much closer to the AL East title.
His .240 batting average may not be the most impressive thing in the world, but he’s been able to back that up with 19 home runs, 62 RBIs and scored 50 runs. He also walked more than last year (33 in 2011, 35 in 2012) and struck out less (106 times in 2011, 67 in 2012) and that was only in the difference of 14 less games played than last year.
Ibanez also fit in nicely in the outfield and the fact that he can still play out there well, adds to his value. He’s played a combination of right and left field in 2012 and has committed no errors at either position. However, Ibanez has been more suited for left field as his UZR is higher there at 0.9, but he’s also started 65 games in left which was his main position for the past six years. Despite that, Ibanez’s versatility much like Suzuki’s really is a gift for the Yankees and something they can fall back on with confidence.
Re-signing both Suzuki and Ibanez is not out of the question for 2013, nor should it be. Age means nothing and I hear a lot of “well, we should only sign Ichiro for one year”. Why? He’s put up tremendous numbers since coming to New York and perhaps this change of scenery added a few more great years to his career. Ibanez also has improved with age and has easily found the job as our DH in 2013. If the Yankees don’t re-sign either one of these two players, then there’s something wrong with Brian Cashman.