Since coming over to the U.S. in 2001, Ichiro Suzuki has been one of the biggest box office draws in Major League Baseball. But he’s declined rapidly over recent years and since joining the Yankees during the summer of 2012, he has been almost a shell of his former self. At the age of 40, the outfielder hasn’t performed well, and now finds himself having to adjust to a very unfamiliar role. This off-season the Yankees bolstered the outfield by bringing in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to join Brett Gardner as the starting trio. The move banished Ichiro, last year’s starting right fielder, to the bench as the team’s fourth and maybe even fifth (DH Alfonso Soriano is expected to have some time in both left and right field) outfielder, a role that is foreign to the former superstar. With more than a few touted outfielders in the minor leagues, the Yankees are rumored to be shopping Ichiro in hopes of filling needs elsewhere.
Ichiro is owed $6.5 million dollars in 2014 after the Yankees gave him a 2-year, $13 million dollar deal. For an aging player who has declined significantly, that is a vastly overpriced salary. All that won’t make trading the speedster easy, but the Yankees are trying nonetheless. Recently, reports are saying that the Yankees are willing to eat a sizable chunk of Ichiro’s salary if the deal is worthwhile. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.com, the Yankees will be looking to receive a good prospect in return in order to pay a portion of Ichiro’s salary. Heyman cites the Tigers as possible partners after they lost outfielder Andy Dirks to a back injury. Other teams linked to Ichiro have been the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Reds, and his former team, the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees will likely seek a relief pitcher or, as Heyman stated, a decent prospect in hopes of improving a weak farm system.
Whether the Yankees deal Ichiro is up in the air right now. GM Brian Cashman is convinced that Ichiro can adjust to his new role as a situational player, but many are skeptical. The Yankees are also shopping catchers and a package trade including Ichiro and a backstop is very possible. Taking a bite out of Ichiro’s salary to ship him out is logical due to his overpriced salary. When it comes down to it, Ichiro has lost his place on the Yankees and his only real role right now is to sell t-shirts. Trust me… I bought one.