Suzuki? Swisher? The Yankees’ 2013 right field dilemma


The acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki was not only surprising, but a decent acquisition at that. Playing 11 1/2 years for one team, in this case the Seattle Mariners is quite the feat. However, there comes a point when you realize you’re more than likely going to be in the Hall of Fame and yet you still lack a ring. Ichiro said himself he had interest in playing for the New York Yankees, and well now, he is. Nick Swisher on the other hand is a guy who has always provided a solid bat with a solid glove and has a World Series ring to prove it. Both these men will be on the roster come October, because let’s face it, unless we collapse and the Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays just can do no wrong, we’re making it to the postseason. This is familiar turf for most of the Yankees, except Ichiro. Will he finally get his ring? That’s a discussion for another time, because there is one underlying issue here, who plays right field next year? Ichiro and Swisher are both free agents after the season. Do we re-sign Ichiro? What about Swisher? How about starting anew in right field? Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres has been in much of the discussion so maybe he’ll be there. All of these and more are questions the Yankees will have to answer to and there is no easy decision. 

First, let’s start off with Ichiro. During the span of his career, Ichiro has made a name for himself by being one of the most pure contact hitters in MLB history. He’s also become quite fond of the number 10. Ichiro is a 10-time All-Star, has 10 Gold Glove Awards, has hit for 200 hits consecutively for 10 years, oh and not to mention he won Rookie of the Year and AL MVP in 2001. Ichiro has also been noted as the 2nd fastest player in MLB history to accrue 2,000 hits and has two batting titles to prove it. Offensively, Ichiro is the best player in the AL in the past 10 years.

Defensively, Ichiro is just as good. With his 10 Gold Gloves, which he achieved for 10 consecutive years, he’s also one of the best defenders in the game. While he is 38 (39 in October), Ichiro has shown no signs of slowing down at all in right field. His position for the Yankees will be in left, but I’m sure he can easily adapt to it knowing the caliber of player that he is. In 2012, Ichiro has only committed three errors, giving him a fielding percentage of .995.

Now, let’s move to Swisher. Ever since the Yankees got Swisher from a trade with the Chicago White Sox, he’s done nothing but produce on both sides of the ball. He’s never had an overbearing bat, but he does come through more often than not. In 2012, Swisher is batting .260 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs with an on base percentage of .344 and slugging percentage of .469. He’s seen the ball well, especially since 2010 where he hit .280. His bat provides solid pop in the middle of the line-up and he draws a lot of walks which contribute to his high OBP.

On the flip side of the ball, Swisher is your typical right fielder, but does provide versatility throughout the defense. Swisher also plays at first base every once in awhile, which adds to his value. His fielding percentage this year in right field is .987 as he’s only committed two errors. He’s only 32, but age is kind to no one. However Swisher, like Ichiro, doesn’t seem affected by his age at all.

The third option to solve this right field dilemma is to not resign either Ichiro or Swisher after the season ends. The Yankees have been linked in talks with Chase Headley of the Padres. While Alex Rodriguez is still out, there’s been a lot of speculation that maybe Brian Cashman will make another ninja like move to acquire Headley, but that remains to be seen. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees’ plan for Headley would have him playing at third until A-Rod comes back and then possibly moving Headley to right field. Headley has never played in right field before, but has had experience in left field. The Yankees’ could keep Headley in left since he’s been used to that role and move Brett Gardnera better fielder, to right.

The Yankees’ expressed interest in Headley has shown speculation that they will want to sign him long term, at least four years, instead of until the end of the 2012 season. However, Headley will become a free agent after the end of next year and the Padres have said themselves that unless they hear a rather decent offer that he is staying in San Diego.

As for any other options, perhaps the Yankees will stay in house, using guys like Raul Ibanez or Andruw Jones, if they so wish to re-sign either man. There’s also the option of using a short term player like Chris Dickerson or Darnell McDonald until the Yankees find someone else more suited to play right field. The big thing for Cashman though is to avoid getting slammed by the luxury tax so maybe signing a big name to right field is out of the question. Until then, the Yankees’ right field issue is still at large.