This is my third year on the Yankees beat, which means my introduction to Brian Cashman at the trade deadline came in 2010, when Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns appeared out of nowhere. It was some sort of magic trick. Not because of the impact they had, but because of the quiet way those deals came together. Of course it made sense that all three were available — and I believe all three had their names tossed around in various trade rumors — but the Yankees were never seriously connected to them until just before the deals were finished.
The Yankees have more eyes and ears on them than any team in baseball, but the front office still manages to work quietly. It still surprises everyone with days like yesterday.
“We’ve made a lot of trades throughout the years,” Derek Jeter said. “Start with my first year when we got Cecil Fielder. There have been a lot of guys that came here that were unexpected and out of the blue. That’s what you come to expect around here.”
Cashman never comes across as a desperate man, so when he told reporters earlier this month that he wasn’t desperate to make a move — either to fill the rotation or to replace Brett Gardner — it was believable. I still believe Cashman was willing to wait, but patience doesn’t mean a lack of diligence. Cashman likes to say he casts a wide net. He explores options.
Ichiro Suzuki for two prospects who never really had a spot in the Yankees long-term plans? With the Mariners paying a huge chunk of the bill? Why not?
“We weren’t actively in the marketplace,” Cashman said. “But when we got the word on Gardy (having season-ending surgery), I started making phone calls, started talking to ownership about surveying the landscape about what would be available, what might be available. My discussions left me a lot of different ways, but the price tags in those discussions didn’t match up with us. Randy Levine approached me during the conversations that he had with (Mariners president) Chuck Armstrong that there might be an opportunity here to pursue. We started focusing on that.”
Let’s not pretend this is a landslide, season-saving acquisition. Cashman hasn’t traded two nickles for a dollar bill. It’s been two years since Ichiro was an elite hitter — he has a lower on-base percentage and a lower slugging percentage than Russell Martin this season — but the Yankees don’t need him to be an elite hitter. Not in this lineup.
If things go well, Ichiro might experience a resurgence that helps him put up Gardner-type numbers. He might get on base a little more often, hit one out now and then, add a real speed element on the bases and improve the defense in the outfield – but there’s little reason to think Ichiro is going to find his prime in the Bronx. He’s a role player on this team, with the added benefit that he happens to be one of the best players of the past decade.
“I laugh when people talk about an off season,” Alex Rodriguez said. “You can either play or you can’t play. Ichiro can flat-out play baseball. We know that. Any time you have a guy with such great fundamentals, we welcome him to this winning culture. When it comes to fundamentals, he’s a master.”
There’s something to be said for that. And there’s a lot to be said for the fact the Yankees aren’t taking on a ton of risk. They traded for the most iconic player in Seattle, and did so without losing a top prospect, paying top dollar or making any sort of noise.
“I didn’t really (expect the trade),” Joe Girardi said. “He’s been such a staple here. I never thought he would be traded. We thought we would get Gardy back, and everything changed. It happened pretty quick, and it’s nice. It’s a nice move for our club.”
Associated Press photo