Free Agent Signing: Ichiro Remains a Yankee (Well, Not in Terms of Nationality)

As we pretty much all expected, legendary Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki will stay with the New York Yankees after being acquired by the storied franchise last July in a trade with Seattle. Suzuki will end up in one of the corner outfield spots for the Yankees, and the team will continue to hold its collective breath that he still has a little bit of gas left in the tank after just having the two worst seasons of his career. The exact contract terms aren’t available yet, but it’s said to be a reasonably inexpensive deal spanning one or two seasons.

Ichiro’s 2012 may not have been up to his previous level of performance, but it was still a lot better than his putrid 2011. After starting off the 2012 with an awful .261/.288/.353 line for the Mariners, becoming a Yankee seemed to jolt Suzuki back into reality. He hit .322/.340/.454 in his remaining 240 PA, and he still provided his team with the excellent defense and baserunning that was expected of him even if his bat faltered.

Ichiro’s faults are evident, and they’re going to get more exaggerated as he gets even older. Now 39, he simply doesn’t have the blinding speed he once did, and it won’t cut it for much longer that he never takes a pitch or draws a walk. That resurgence in late 2012 could carry over a bit, and the new Yankee Stadium is a fun place to hit, but the main reason the Yankees can benefit from having Ichiro on board is his work with the glove. The Yankees had the most lethal offense in baseball last season by just about any metric; it almost seems strange since the team is so old, brittle, and callously discussed. They can afford to have a defense-first guy or two if they need to, so if Ichiro slips back down to his pre-trade decline phase, there are still things to like. We’ll add the exact terms of the deal in here once they’re made public.

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