Early Monday evening – and on the heels of a busted trade rumor, maybe – the Seattle Mariners sent right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees, in exchange for two pitching prospects. Seattle is also sending cash considerations.
This, of course, comes just days after Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik was quoted by Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, as saying, “We intend to keep him. I’m telling you, he’s going to be a Mariner.”
From the Yankees’ perspective, acquiring Ichiro could become more of a higher-priced, lateral move, as the team looks to plug him into left field everyday where, surprisingly, Andruw Jones (.229/.304/.507) and Raul Ibanez (.241/.299/.449) have combined to form a solid platoon. According to the Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, Jones has been 14% better than the league average offensively, and Ibanez just four percent below it.
What the Yankees are banking on is the tremendous home/road splits Ichiro’s shown this year, hitting .214/.255/.289 at Safeco and .297/.314/.402 everywhere else. Still, though, despite the dramatic differences, his total offensive production away from Safeco is 98 wRC+, just two percentage points better than that of Ibanez’s total.
Through 95 games and 423 plate appearances, Ichiro’s hitting a combined .261/.288/.353., but has managed to total nearly two wins above replacement thanks in large part due to some tremendous defensive totals (+25.9 UZR/150 between center and right fields).
Closing in on 39, he’s just a shell of his former self: he’s an efficient base runner, but isn’t the threat he once was, and his on-base percentage is just .302 since the start of 2011. Obviously, he’s no longer a top-of-the-order-type hitter, but he doesn’t necessarily have to with the Yankees; they plan on hitting him eighth. The only worry, believe it or not, would be if his addition creates a logjam between left field and DH, causing Ibanez, Jones, or Eric Chavez (.276/.331/.487) to lose too much playing time.
Going the other way are two right-handers, D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
Mitchell is the better of the two, ranking as the sixteenth best Yankees prospect prior to the season according to Baseball America. He’s not overpowering, throwing in the 88 – 91 mph range, but shows a decent feel for pitching. In 538 career minor league innings, he’s averaged seven strikeouts and just over three walks per nine innings.
Mitchell’s a vanilla, upper-level, low-ceiling pitching prospect that could benefit from the friendly confines of Safeco because he doesn’t throw a ton of groundballs. He’s not likely to carve out a lengthy career as a starter and could be a serviceable – replaceable – middle reliever.
Farquhar’s a decent middle relief prospect – if one truly ever existed – if he could ever get the walks under control. Throughout his minor league career, he’s averaged over one strikeout per inning, but has coupled that with a below-average walk rate (4.1 BB/9). He’s been passed around a bit and is now on his fourth organization this year.
Overall, this is one of those moves that likely won’t prove any large dividends for either team, both in the short and long terms. At best, the Yankees catch lightning in bottle from a rejuvenated Ichiro and the Mariners add a little bit of pitching depth.
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