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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spector: Beltran’s entrance points Ichiro toward exit for Yankees

As Pea Muggeridge Day once noted…“Few ballplayers of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time.”

As the Yankees officially introduced Carlos Beltran as their latest free-agent addition on Friday, they essentially said goodbye to Ichiro Suzuki.

Ichiro still is on the roster in the Bronx, due $6.5 million for 2014. The 40-year-old outfielder is 258 hits away from 3,000 in his major league career after reaching the milestone of 4,000 combined in MLB and Japan this past season. That career highlight was a happy part of an otherwise lousy season, as Ichiro hit .262/.297/.342 with a career-low 136 hits for the season.

With Beltran joining an outfield that includes fellow free agent signee Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as holdovers Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano, the Yankees have a choice to make between Ichiro and Vernon Wells, because they currently have six outfielders under contract.

... From a baseball standpoint, keeping the righty-swinging Wells over the lefty-swinging Ichiro also makes sense given that Gardner and Ellsbury bat left-handed, and Beltran is a switch-hitter — although the numbers don’t entirely agree. Wells had a .697 OPS against left-handed pitching this year, compared to a .580 mark against righties Ichiro had a .733 OPS against lefties, and .590 against righties, and has a reverse platoon split for his career.

Even with those splits, the fact remains that Ichiro is very much like two of the Yankees’ starting outfielders, while Wells offers a right-handed power bat off the bench. Fading though that power may be, Wells basically plays in New York for free, while Ichiro does not. Finding a trade partner will not necessarily be easy, but not impossible given that a team acquiring Ichiro would have the benefit of adding a future Hall of Famer, always alluring from a ticket sales perspective no matter how late in a player’s career it is.

Repoz Posted: December 21, 2013 at 08:41 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. bfan Posted: December 21, 2013 at 09:22 AM (#4622070)
He should go back to Seattle and end his career where he started. He will get about 200 ABs (about 50 base hits in there), and when he gets a base hit in September (which of course will be a single), pinch-run for him and make that his last AB, so he ends his career on a hit. That will be a nice way for him to go out.
   2. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4622078)
Ichiro could return to Seattle if he wanted to.
   3. BDC Posted: December 21, 2013 at 10:51 AM (#4622097)
Even at 40, he's still among the better baserunners and outfielders around, especially for part-time duty. Kind of weird that he would finally play his way out of a job due to low batting average :(
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: December 21, 2013 at 10:52 AM (#4622098)
I hope he Biggio's his way to 3000 hits... taking 3 years to get there and doing it on the defending world champion Pirates team in 2016.
   5. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 11:34 AM (#4622102)
BDC: It doesn't seem weird at all to me. Pretty near every player leaves the game when their batting average gets too low to play. Exactly what constitutes too low to play depends on what power and defense he has. In Ichiro's case too low is anything below about .290.
   6. BDC Posted: December 21, 2013 at 11:46 AM (#4622107)
I see your point, PASTE. I guess I always thought Ichiro might depart like Tony Gwynn, still hitting well over .300 but unable to do much else. Of course, Ichiro's been trending away from .300 for some time now …
   7. jdennis Posted: December 21, 2013 at 12:04 PM (#4622113)
trade him to Seattle for a low A lefty
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM (#4622118)
Gwynn, like Mark McGwire and Chipper Jones, left the game still a good player because he reached his breaking point with constantly getting injured and spending half his time rehabbing and the other half playing in pain. Those are rare exceptions, though. (In McGwire's case, you can hit .180 and still be effective if you hit a circuit clout every 12 at-bats and take a ton of walks.)
   9. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: December 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4622120)
Ichiro! for Dan Uggla. Yankees get a 2B project, Braves get someone else to run out in the OF if BJ Upton and Ryan Doumit both crash. Braves get cash relief.
   10. KT's Pot Arb Posted: December 21, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4622145)
trade him to Seattle for a low A lefty


You mean "with".

And salary relief.
   11. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: December 21, 2013 at 01:55 PM (#4622167)
Ichiro's days as an effective player are over, but he still has some value as a 5th outfielder. Wells is completely toast. I think it's an easy decision if one of them has to be released.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 02:16 PM (#4622187)
Ichiro's days as an effective player are over, but he still has some value as a 5th outfielder. Wells is completely toast. I think it's an easy decision if one of them has to be released.

I think both are gone. Wells because he's toast, and Ichiro to clear some salary.

With Gardner and Ellsbury they have 2 CF, and K Johnson can play a corner in a pinch, so I don't think they carry 5 OF.
   13. Born1951 Posted: December 21, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4622189)
Pretty near every player leaves the game when their batting average gets too low to play.

Jacob Peterson wrote an article awhile back about players that reached a career high in batting average in their last season. Pretty interesting stuff.

http://junkstats.com/mlb/going-out-high-note-batting-average/
   14. Rough Carrigan Posted: December 21, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4622200)
Maybe I'm too cynical but I can't imagine the presence of Suzuki inspiring ticket buying anywhere but Seattle. No other team will give the yankees something for Suzuki because they expect him to sell tickets for them.
   15. puck Posted: December 21, 2013 at 02:56 PM (#4622206)
Would Ichiro go back to Japan to play? I mean, I know he could if he wanted to, but would he?
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 04:10 PM (#4622235)
Maybe I'm too cynical but I can't imagine the presence of Suzuki inspiring ticket buying anywhere but Seattle. No other team will give the yankees something for Suzuki because they expect him to sell tickets for them.

Eh, someone's going to give Nelson Cruz $12M+ a year, and he's not really any better.
   17. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 04:27 PM (#4622240)
Maybe I'm too cynical but I can't imagine the presence of Suzuki inspiring ticket buying anywhere but Seattle. No other team will give the yankees something for Suzuki because they expect him to sell tickets for them.


Both LA teams have significant Japanese populations nearby. Doesn't SF, too?
   18. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4622261)
Going back to Japan to play out the last two or three years of his baseball career seems to me like a great idea for Ichiro on several levels, actually. Japanese teams would line up to take at least half of Ichiro's remaining contract from the Yankees, wouldn't they? I have to think he would sell tickets over there.

I mean, if he wants to stay in MLB and drive for 3,000 hits and one team out there is willing to put him in the lineup every day while he does so, great. I would imagine Houston or San Francisco or the Mets or somebody would be willing to play him every day if the Yankees pick up some of the freight. But I have no idea what Ichiro really wants. It seems clear he's going to be a part-time player if he stays with the Yankees.
   19. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 05:56 PM (#4622263)
Even at 40, he's still among the better baserunners and outfielders around, especially for part-time duty. Kind of weird that he would finally play his way out of a job due to low batting average :(


bWAR liked his defense last year but he made some really bad old-looking plays.

I do think he's a better chance for a 4th/5th OF than Wells.

Sadly, people heaped too much expectation on him. If we go back three years we had people arguing that he would keep churning out Ichiro! style seasons into through age 40 and beyond. Those people would be quite surprised to learn now that his career is about over at 40 and that he's unlikely to reach 3,000 hits. But really most players' careers are over well before 40, so it shouldn't be that surprising. It shows the unrealistic view people had of him as a player, to be surprised that a 40 year old can't play anymore.
   20. Gonfalon B. Posted: December 21, 2013 at 06:30 PM (#4622271)
I guess I always thought Ichiro might depart like Tony Gwynn, still hitting well over .300 but unable to do much else. Of course, Ichiro's been trending away from .300 for some time now

And Gwynn's been trending towards 300 over the same timeframe.
   21. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 21, 2013 at 07:15 PM (#4622280)
You mean he's on a diet? He has to weigh 350 by now.
   22. ptodd Posted: December 21, 2013 at 07:26 PM (#4622285)
I think Ichiro would be a pretty valuable 4th OF'er. Late inning defensive replacement for Beltran, and a CF backup for Ellsbury, pinch runner, etc. You probably need at least 60 games from someone to play when Ellsbury or Beltran does not.

There is nothing Wells does that you can't find from any replacement level OF'er
   23. madvillain Posted: December 21, 2013 at 07:51 PM (#4622293)
@22, yea was just going to post generally the same. Unless the Yankees are really that cash strapped they need to dump Ichiro's 6.5 million he's much more useful as a bench player than Wells. A 5th OF is going to start maybe once a week at most the rest of the time you want a late inning pinch runner and defensive replacement and someone who could man CF cromulently in an emergency, that's Ichiro, not Wells.

I'd bet much more on a dead cat bounce from the famously fit and dedicated Ichiro -- say 290/330/390 with solid baserunning and fielding than anything above replacement level from Wells.
   24. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 21, 2013 at 08:06 PM (#4622295)
Kind of weird that he would finally play his way out of a job due to low batting average :(


Now would be a pretty opportune time to start wanting to hit all those home runs, no?
   25. Walt Davis Posted: December 22, 2013 at 01:08 AM (#4622388)
Yes, Ichiro is better than Wells. And presumably one of these guys is at DH most of the time although possibly the Yanks will have to move Jeter there permanently. Ichiro could see a good bit of time as Beltran/Soriano defensive replacement.
   26. Rough Carrigan Posted: December 22, 2013 at 01:30 AM (#4622393)
You mean he's on a diet? He has to weigh 350 by now.


It got to be a problem in the occasional broadcasts he did, the play by play guy having to discreetly work around a chained Princess Leia being there in the booth.
   27. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 22, 2013 at 02:20 AM (#4622400)
The Gwynn jokes are a bit in poor taste. Yes, he gained a ton of weight, but he's also had some very serious (unrelated) health issues he's been dealing with. He's had a rough go of it.

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