I entered the movie theater yesterday (BATMAN!!!!) assuming the Yankees were still looking for pitchers before the trade deadline. I came out of the theater with my cell phone blowing up with friends texting me about the Yankees big move. I assumed it was Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke. It was not until I opened my computer and saw the ESPN headline; Ichiro is going to be in pinstripes. The Yankees get Suzuki while the Mariners get two pitching prospects. What is the rationale of the deal? Implications for the Yankees playoff push? Is this a good deal for either team? After the jump, I delve into those questions from the perspective of both teams.
Mariners Perspective: Ichiro Suzuki is aging and while he will be a free agent next year, he remained the biggest icon and fan favorite in Seattle. Felix Hernandez is arguably the best player on the team, but Ichiro brings in an international fan base and a series of historic hit records. Low on power, high on contact and speed, he came into the MLB after dominating Japanese pitching. However, a couple of subpar (for him) seasons left Seattle in a bind. Pay him about $18 million or trade him and get fresh, young players. Interestingly, Ichiro was deeply involved in the trade, as both sides saw the Mariners in a position to go after a youth-based approach and for Suzuki to have a fresh start in a new market. The term ‘new beginning’ has been used heavily by several media sources, signifying that this move is seen as beneficial by everyone in Seattle.
But what are the M’s getting? For one thing, an extra $2 million in salary savings in 2012. Also, D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Farquhar has thrown 282.2 innings in the minors (only two in the Majors) and has a 9.2 K/9. He has moved around a ton (13 times in five seasons) so it is hard to draw a lot of conclusions about him. In the Minors, he has shown decent control, shown by a 2.27 K/BB ratio, but he was definitely not the big name of the trade. Mitchell, has thrown 4.2 innings of Major league ball and was on the Yankees active roster until the trade. 2011 was his only full year in AAA, and he threw 161.1 innings of 3.96 FIP baseball. Compared to his 3.18 ERA, it should be interesting to see if/when he starts for Seattle that trend continues. All in all, not two of the better Yankee pitching prospects, but both are fairly young and should contribute to the back of the rotation (Mitchell) and bullpen (Farquhar).
Yankees Perspective: Before you all get mad, I am going to say this: the trade feels a lot like the early-mid 2000s where the Yankees traded young prospects for aging stars, only to see that strategy go up in ugly smoke (Jason Giambi, et al). That being said, DeWayne Wise is not exactly a huge help in the outfield and with the recent news that Brett Gardner would be out for the rest of the season, having a fast outfielder with good range gives flexibility to Nick Swisher in right field or Andruw Jones in left. How Joe Girardi decides to use Ichiro will be watched, but his speed and ability to get on base should help the Yankees continue to score runs at their absurd pace.
On the other hand, they do need pitching. Sure, the two prospects were not going to be any help anytime soon, but the fact that Brian Cashman and company decided to shop for an outfielder verses pitching could be a cause for concern for Yankee fans. That is not to say the Yankees are not still in the market, they are always in the market, but the move is still an odd one. Simply put, is an aging star known for his speed a good idea right now? His offensive struggles have been well-documented, and as his wOBA and SLG continue to hit career lows Yankee fans are praying that the slight increase in ISO in 2012 is helped by a hitter friendly park. Actually, it should be helped just by not playing at Safeco. In 2012, he has a wRC+ split of 51/97, Home/Road. In the same split, his OPS is 0.544/0.712. Moving into a super-hitter friendly park should only help that.
Given those stats, this deal looks decent for the Yankees. They lose two pitching prospects, but their strength has not been building homegrown pitching for some years. In return, they get flexibility in platooning Swisher, Ibanez, and Jones as Girardi deems necessary. Having too many outfielders may look like a problem, but it’s an ‘Uptown problem’ that the Yankees are more than use to.
Agree with this analysis? Disagree vehemently? Who won the trade? Let the world/me know! Utilize the comments section below and/or tweet me (@timnicodemus).