There was a time when Ichiro Suzuki was one of the best five players in baseball, someone who was a delight to watch at the plate, on the bases and in the outfield. There aren't many singles hitters who force you to watch every move they make, but Ichiro was that kind of must-see player.
While Ichiro isn't a top-five type player anymore, he can still be a very effective player for the Yankees as they refine their roster and push toward the post-season. By acquiring Ichiro from the Mariners for right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar, the Yankees didn't surrender any premier prospects and improved their outfield. In addition, the Yankees will only pay Ichiro $2.25 million for the rest of the season. They believe Ichiro is still worth watching and, of course, still worth having.
When General Manager Brian Cashman surveyed the trade for possible outfield help, he didn't like the hefty pricetags for players like Shane Victorino and Denard Span. Although Justin Upton is a very attractive 24-year old, the Yankees weren't thrilled with the type of package it would take to acquire him, either. Ichiro was available at a modest price so the Yankees were smart to pounce. The acquisition of Ichiro makes them a better team.
By obtaining Ichiro, the Yankees have added a reasonable facsimile of Brett Gardner. Ichiro still plays superb defense and still has excellent speed, traits that the Yankees have lacked in Gardner's absence. Once the Yankees realized Gardner was probably done for 2012 because of his impending elbow surgery, they pushed to add another outfielder. The Yankees are hopeful that Ichiro, who only has a .302 on base percentage since the beginning of the 2011 season, will be reujvenated by playing for a contending team.
Ichiro will mostly play left field, which will allow Manager Joe Girardi to use Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones as a designated hitter platoon. As elated as the Yankees have been about what Ibanez and Jones have done, the Yankees have been concerned about overtaxing the two aging players. Ichiro is 38 years old, but he is used to playing every day. Since Ichiro has been a 10-time Gold Glove outfielder, the shift to left field won't be an issue for him.
As Ichiro discussed becoming a Yankee, he said that he was having a difficult time containing his excitement. Ichiro, who had asked the Mariners for a trade, isn't being asked to be a savior. All the Yankees need Ichiro to do is play strong defense, create some mayhem on the bases and provide some offense and excitement from the bottom of the order. If Ichiro does that, he can prove that he is still worth watching.