Second weekend of this came-too-soon offseason, and already the Giants have won two more postseason games against the Tigers than the Yankees did. But at this point, the embarrassment has subsided a little bit and the bigger picture has come into focus. These days there seems to be less complaining about what happened in the playoffs and more talk about what the Yankees should do in the winter.
And personally, I’ve been a little surprised at just how often Ichiro Suzuki’s name has been brought up.
Joel Sherman reported this week that Ichiro would like to come back to the Yankees, but I’m not so sure the Yankees should want him back. Ichiro played well during his two months in pinstripes, and there might be something to the idea of a veteran player revitalizing his career in a competitive environment, but I find it hard to ignore the year and a half before Ichiro was traded.
Ichiro’s numbers took a serious hit in 2011, and they were even worse this year before the Mariners dumped him to add two young pitchers and open some playing time for young outfielders. As of September 1, Ichiro was still hitting just .266/.293/.369 this season, and that was with more than a month of improved numbers at the bottom of the Yankees lineup.
The idea of Ichiro is a nice fit for the Yankees. It’s an idea of an elite right fielder who can hit for a high average, get on base a lot and steal some bags. But I’m not sure the Yankees can count on Ichiro being that player next year. I’m not sure it’s enough of a slam dunk to decide he’s the right fielder, no questions asked.
It goes unnoticed, but Brett Gardner’s career on-base percentage is .355, just 10 points lower than Ichiro’s. Gardner’s not nearly the player Ichiro has been — no one is suggesting that — but I’m not sure Gardner wouldn’t put up better numbers than Ichiro next season. And if there’s a younger version of current Ichiro already on the roster, why add Ichiro himself? Just because he had two good months and might give the Yankees that high-average bat they were missing this season?
In a complementary role? Absolutely. Ichiro could be somewhat of a regular with the potential for real impact, but the risk of 2013 Ichiro looking a lot like 2011 Ichiro seems a little too great for me to consider him a standout right field option.
Associated Press photo