|Ichiro, in his first game as a Yankee./NY Daily News pic|
Some baseball fans, whether general fans, Ichiro fans, or Yankee fans, are expecting a big bounce-back.
To which I say, fugeddaboutit.
Don't forget, he's already got 8,500 career plate appearance in the US, and what, 3,500-4,000 in Japan? 12,000 total major league appearances puts him in the top 20 all time in the US in MLB plate appearances, if we count Japan as equal; 12,500 puts him in the top 10.
In other words, what I'm saying in general and politely saying to baseball friends of mine is that Ichiro's tank is running out of gas and he won't get a magic rejuvenation in Yankee Stadium. In fact, the trade for him shows that the M's definitely weren't going to pay a lot for him to stay (and he wanted to move on anyway), and that the Yankees aren't too worried about not resigning him, either.
Indeed, the Yankees, too, think there's not much gas left in Ichiro's tank. Pre-trade, they gave him a list of conditions for him to accept. One was that he might get benched against lefty pitchers. Add in that they've already said they consider him a left-fielder, and unless he shows definite improvement, he's not long for the MLB world. There's not a lot of big contract for old, platooning, low-power left fielders. Not even in the National League and certainly not in the American League.
A team source acknowledged that if the player's name wasn't Ichiro, the Yankees probably wouldn't have had any interest in the outfielder, who is batting a career-low .261 this season.I agree with the first graf and call bullshit on the next two. If his defensive abilities really are undiminished, why have the Yankees already said they're looking at him playing LF, not RF?
But the consensus among Yankees scouts was that Ichiro was "bored" playing for the last-place Mariners and was "playing down to his surroundings." The Yankees hope this situation will reverse itself with the 38-year-old Ichiro suddenly shifted to a first-place team with a legitimate hope of reaching the World Series.
Yankees scouts reported that Ichiro's athleticism and defensive abilities were undiminished, another factor that influenced New York to take the leap of faith that Ichiro could return to a semblance of his former effectiveness.
Rather, I go back to the fact that he's simply hitting the wall.
But, let's say they do have some interest in resigning him next year.
I'm guessing that even with a relatively hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, his lines next year don't crack .285 BA, .725 OPS and 25 SB. (Or fewer than 25 SB if he's platooning.)
But, that's assuming the Yankees do. Or, that it's to be a third, rather than fourth, outfielder.
Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner have two spots locked up next year, assuming Gardner's healthy. The Yankees could well bring back at least one of the two of Raul Ibanez or Andruw Jones.
Both of them are free agents, but should be cheap ones. (If Ibanez doesn't retire.)
The big question is, do the Yanks keep Nick Swisher, also a FA? If so, then Ichiro is definitely the No. 4 OF, if he's interested in staying. If not, and they don't resign Ibanez or Jones either one, I think they still want a bat with more bop than Ichiro's as the No. 3 OF.
So, unless Ichiro translates that batting-practice home run stroke to the field, he's just a rent-a-player in Gotham.
And, next year, unless he does show at least a bit of his legendary batting-practice power in games, he won't be worth more than $3M a year.
Let's put it this way. The Nationals just cut Rick Ankiel. I'd take him — younger, better defense and more power, at the tradeoff of lower BA and many more strikeouts — over Ichiro.