Ichiro Suzuki is by far the best contact hitter in the MLB in the past 10 years. (Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

Two Players the Yankees Must Keep in 2013

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.

Raul Ibanez has found a home at DH and occasionally in left field. (Image: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE)

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.

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  • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

    Sorry Ben, but I can’t say I agree, at least about Ibanez (and giving a multi-year deal to Ichiro). He hit just about average this year, which is fine, but as a DH/bad corner outfielder, that’s just not worth much. Yes, the clutch factor brought up his value slightly this year, but I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect that in future years. Ibanez will turn 41 next year, meaning his batting will probably decline to below average and he most likely would never field as long as Gardner remains healthy. That leaves an old, average (at best) hitting DH who can’t play the field. That’s not really what you want out of your DH, and it should be pretty easy to find a better cheap alternative either in the free agent market or the minor league system, in my opinion.

    • Benjamin Orr

      Thanks for your comment Matt! No worries, everyone has their own opinion.

      Well, it’s an alternative to having nothing in a sense. We all know the Yankees sometimes overpay and it can come back to bite us. The DH role is something this team has never really had consistently since Hideki Matsui left and I’m hoping Ibanez can keep up what he did this year into next year. Will he put up the same numbers? Dunno. Every player is a gamble, but as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If we could find an alternative to Ibanez, sure go for it, but for now, he has to remain.

      If it’s a matter of just keeping one of the two, I’d rather keep Ichiro. I feel he has more value to us and is still producing some good numbers even at 38. We all had the same concern about Jeter, but he pleasantly surprised us. I bet Ichiro can do the same.

      • BrianHenesey

        Agree, 100 percent. Ibanez had 19 homeruns on 200 less at bats than other guys with similar numbers. I am so tired about hearing how his fielding is a liability- his 2012 numbers based on his salary, made him the best signing in MLB this year. When he wins a few more games in the playoffs, Matt can apologize.

        • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

          Yes, he had 19 home runs, but only had a .240 batting average and .308 on-base percentage. And I’m not saying that he’s been bad this year. In fact, he’s been a great signing. I wouldn’t call it the best signing in the MLB, but it was good. But I’m talking about next year, when he’ll turn 41. Since 1980, there have been exactly 12 players who have hit above average at 41 or later. Almost all of them are/will be Hall of Famers or close, and about half played in the steroid era, when it was much easier to play into your 40s.

          Again, I’m not trying to say that Ibanez has been bad this year, but that he’s been about average (and very clutch). That average play will surely turn into below average play as he ages, and the clutchness is unlikely to continue as well.

          • BrianHenesey

            Matt! Please apologize! check out the current news section from March at http://www.overachievesportsandspeed.com

          • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

            I’m not going to apologize. Ibanez has been amazing and last night was amazing, but that doesn’t mean we should re-sign him. Look at Pat Burrell with the Giants in 2010. He did great, was clutch in the playoffs, then they resigned him and he hit .230 with 7 homers and bad defense. Guys like Burrell and Ibanez can have great years, but we can’t expect them to continue as they age (not that Burrell was that old, but you get the point).

      • http://YanksGoYard.com/ Matt Hunter

        Right, of course the Yankees shouldn’t overpay for a guy that’s not even going to play defense. That would be foolish. But I see no reason to keep a guy that’s going on on 41, has never had that great of season, and who was only average this year. Yeah, if we can’t find an alternative to Ibanez, we should keep him. But I see no reason why we wouldn’t be able to find a good alternative to Ibanez. There are a lot of guys out there that are younger, play better defense, are better hitters, and still would be a bargain.

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  • Aaron Schlesinger

    Mr. Orr, I have to say this – I definitely agree on Ichiro. I see a 2 year contract as making a huge amount of sense for Ichiro. I think he’s far more worth the money than signing Nick Swisher for 7 years would be. Put him back in RF, put Gardner in left and for the first time in a number of years, I feel like the Yankees would be all around strong defensively with speedy, strong guys all around.

    • Benjamin Orr

      Thanks for your comment Aaron.

      At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Ichiro, but ever since then it’s been nothing but positive. He plays the field well, being a versatile player, and he hits well. With his speed, Gardner’s speed and even a little of Grandy’s speed, it’s going to be a tough outfield to get a lot hits against. Plus Ichiro and Gardner would be absolute menaces around the bases for opposing teams. I’d love to have him beyond this year.