There’s always the trade no one saw coming. This year it was Ichiro Suzuki being dealt to the New York Yankees for right-handed pitching prospects D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. New York will only have to pay $2 million of Ichiro’s contract which is set to end after this season. What does this trade mean for the Yankees? Is Nick Swisher’s hip flexor injury more serious than originally thought? Possibly. Was Brett Gardner being ruled out for the season (elbow surgery) cause to get a similar player to Gardner’s skills? Yes. Can Ichiro return to pre-2011 form in a change of scenery? Probably not. Will Yankees fans be outraged when Ichiro wears #51 because it was Bernie Williams’ number? Yes, but they shouldn’t be. (EDIT: Ichiro says he won’t wear #51 as it’s special to the Yankees) Will the bleacher creatures be sad that fan favorite Swisher is possibly going to be moved to the other side of the outfield? You betcha.
Ichiro is a huge name, but he isn’t the same player anymore. The 38 year-old is hitting a career-low .261 this season in 95 games with Seattle after batting just .271 last season. He had batted over .300 in each of his previous ten seasons in the Majors. This is cause for concern that he’s not the player he used to be, but when you realize that Brett Gardner had only hit .259 for New York last season, it makes it a little more palatable. Ichiro also is still good to great on the basepaths. He still had 15 stolen bases while only being caught twice this season. The speed isn’t as good as Gardner’s, but it’s good enough to bring that dimension back into the best offense in baseball. Ichiro’s presence will also prevent Raul Ibáñez from having to play defense for the rest of this season. That in itself is worth it to Yankees fans.
The Mariners pick up two pitching prospects for letting go of the face of their franchise. I don’t think that D.J. Mitchell is on Manny Bañuelos or Dellin Betances level as a prospect in the Yankees farm system, but he was very good in AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2011. 25 year-old Mitchell was the 16th ranked prospect in the Yankees system by Baseball America at the end of last season. Danny Farquhar has been waived three times this season by the Blue Jays, Athletics and the Yankees. He did have a cup of coffee with the Blue Jays last season, and could end up a bullpen arm for Seattle in the future.
Ichiro won’t have to wait long to return to Seattle as the Yankees start a four-game series with the Mariners tonight. It’s going to weird to see Ichiro in pinstripes, but the first at-bat is can’t miss TV for any baseball fan tonight. Let’s hope he can find his way to the visitor’s clubhouse after 12 years of going to the home side. Now the question turns to where will Ichiro take his pursuit of 3,000 hits after this season?
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)