After a few days of fine tuning, the New York Yankees have come to an agreement with Ichiro Suzuki on a two-year deal worth $13 million according to a tweet from CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. There has not been a confirmation at this point, but there the numbers change, we’ll update you. With the signing, the Yankees have finally pieced together a full lineup with the only question mark being, who will be behind the plate. Suzuki was offered two-years, $14 million from the Philadelphia Phillies and two-years, $15 million from another team believed to be the San Francisco Giants. Suzuki said all along that he preferred to come back to New York and showed it by taking a lower offer.
Suzuki, 39, hit .322 with a .340 OBP and .454 SLG in 240 plate appearances with the Yankees, which was much better than his line with the Mariners prior to be traded (.261/.288/.353). His numbers were even better in Yankee Stadium, .338/.363/.531 including five home runs in 139 plate appearances. Ichiro has accumulated 2,606 MLB hits, so with two very good seasons he could reach the 3,000 plateau in 2014. It is easy to see that generating some extra revenue to the Yankees as he chases the number. The Yankees put stock in players reaching milestones while wearing pinstripes.
Initially the allure of Suzuki was the fact that he was willing to take a one-year contract as the Yankees continue to sign such deals so that they can piece together a much less expensive team in 2014 in an effort to stay below the competitive balance tax threshold. When other teams got involved the Yankees had to make a decision on whether Suzuki could help them next season too and apparently they feel he can. Still, the average annual value of $6.5 million that will count against the Yankees tax threshold is not a large number. The Yankees farm system should be ready to add one or two outfielders (Mason Williams, Tyler Austin or Slade Heathcott are possibilities) in the later stages of 2014 and to start the 2015 season.
The Yankees will start three left-handed hitting outfielders with Suzuki slated to man right field. Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson comprise the rest of the outfield at this point. His addition to the lineup gives the Yankees another mostly contact/speed player to the mix instead of directly replacing Nick Swisher‘s power and run production profile. Yanks Go Yard staff writer Jimmy Kraft wrote about the Yankees shifting focus to a contact-first approach at the plate as not such a bad thing and I tend to agree.
Ichiro at this price could be a bargain if he is able to play similarly to the production he showed toward the end of last season. He’ll need to accumulate about 2.6 WAR for both seasons combined (based on last season’s dollar value from FanGraphs with some inflation built in) to get the Yankees to break even value on the $13 million deal. Ichiro recorded an overall WAR of 2.6 in 2012, so the number for two seasons seems attainable.
The Yankees will likely now move on to signing platoon players for OF/DH ideally with both sides having a power profile to compensate for the loss of Swisher’s run production. The Yankees have said and there is mutual interest in left-handed DH Raul Ibanez returning to the Bronx and Scott Hairston remains out there as a potential right-handed masher type. I wrote yesterday about some other less appealing options from the right side.
The Yankees, with their average age creeping up with each signing, will have to make sure that the bench spots and the players at Triple-A are ready to assume roles with the team on a moment’s notice. The likelihood of injuries and the need for days off will be required throughout the season.
The Yankees have developed a roster in such a way with hopes that each of the aging veterans can put together above-average seasons all at the same time and get expected or better production from the “younger” players, like Gardner, Granderson and Robinson Cano. If not there are too many injuries or lack of production from more than one player, the Yankees could be looking to 2014 in earnest come July.