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July 24, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Ichiro Bound for the Big Apple UPDATED

by Colin Wyers and Kevin Goldstein

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-L Ichiro Suzuki and cash considerations from the Seattle Mariners for RHP D.J. Mitchell and RHP Danny Farquhar. [7/23]

Some of you may not remember it, but Hulk Hogan was once widely respected (at least among the sorts of teenage boys who watched professional “wrestling”). He was what’s called a “face,” the good-guy character who you could wholeheartedly cheer for. So it was surprising that an aging, past-his-prime Hulk Hogan announced that he was going to be joining the “New World Order,” pro wrestling’s designated organization for villains, or “heels.”

Mariners fans may well be having similar feelings—just yesterday Ichiro was quite possibly the most most beloved player in the franchise's history, and tonight he's taking the field for the Yankees at the Mariners' own park. (Throwing salt in the wound, Ichiro requested a trade weeks ago.)  And like Hulk Hogan, Ichiro is past his prime: His PECOTA-projected rest-of-season TAv is .263, which is a marked improvement on his dismal .235 so far but not enough to provide much above replacement value from an outfield corner, even if he plays his typical good defense.

Does that mean that Ichiro has no value to the Yankees? Not really; he can still hit a little, can probably play all three outfield positions (even if it has been a while since he’s played center field) long enough to spell someone for a few games, and has value off the bench as a late-game defensive replacement. He’s probably not a bad fit for a Yankees team that frankly doesn’t need a whole lot, but with Brett Gardner likely out for the rest of the season, he’s probably not the outfield bat Yankees fans were hoping for. —Colin Wyers

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP D.J. Mitchell and RHP Danny Farquhar from the New York Yankees for OF-L Ichiro Suzuki and cash considerations. [7/23]

For Seattle, Ichiro wasn't bringing a lot to the table, and the value of a win in the standings is so low to the M's that it shouldn't bother them much if they can't find anything other than a replacement-level replacement. The Mariners don't save a lot of money in this deal; the Yankees will be paying $2 million for Ichiro, meaning the Mariners had to chip in roughly $4 million in the deal. More important for the Mariners is that they've saved face: They no longer have to worry about pressure to re-sign an aging Ichiro at the end of the season. Seattle can move forward and try to find players who will be on the next good Mariners team. —Colin Wyers

The Mariners didn't get much in return for Ichiro, but they did get two possible future pieces for a rapidly declining outfielder with no secondary skills.

Mitchell is the better prospect of the two arms. A 10th-round pick in 2008 who signed for an over-slot $400,000, Mitchell is a small, but athletic right-hander whose best attributes are his ability to throw strikes and keep the ball out of the air. His 88-91-mph fastball features heavy sink, and he uses a solid curveball against right-handed hitters with a diving change against left-handers. His future is as a middle reliever who gets groundballs.

That's also Farquhar's upside. He's become a journeyman this year, but that's because he's been just good enough to be the last guy on several teams' 40-man rosters. Selected 11 slots before Mitchell in the 2008 draft by the Blue Jays, Farquhar is fun to watch, as he varies his arm angles from three-quarters all the way down to sidearm on a 90-93-mph fastball with good sink. He's very inconsistent in terms of command and control, and he has a tendency to miss up when he's off, which has left many scouts seeing him as an up-and-down type of reliever.—Kevin Goldstein

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

26 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

whanson

Colin I think you are missing the point of this trade. I think the Yankees view him as a starting outfielder and I think it would be a big surprise if he didn't play most everyday.

Jul 23, 2012 16:54 PM
rating: 3
 
Shaun P.
(676)

Agreed. Anything that gets Raul Ibanez off of the field is a big help for the Yanks.

With Swisher out for the series, it also saves the Yanks from playing both Ibanez (no glove) and Wise (no bat) - or Andruw Jones - in Safeco's cavernous outfield.

Otherwise though, Colin, I think you're spot on right.

Jul 23, 2012 17:07 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I was hoping for a bit more of a writeup on the players the Mariners acquired.

"His PECOTA-projected rest-of-season TAv is .263" I'm surprised this is brought up since there have been articles on BP about how PECOTA constantly underprojects Ichiro.

Jul 23, 2012 17:27 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Oh and as an addendum, I think the Yankees will get more than $2 mil back in revenue/advertising since the Japanese media still follows Ichiro everywhere.

Jul 23, 2012 17:30 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

On the flipside, there's a pretty substantial Japanese community in the Pacific Northwest and some people fly from Japan and/or watch Mariners games in Japan solely because of Ichiro. With the Mariners attendance already flagging, does Ichiro leaving really save the Mariners $2 million?

Jul 24, 2012 11:10 AM
rating: 1
 
CalledStrike3

Good question -
They do get 3 near sellouts during the week because they traded on Monday and not the last day of a series which is the MLB norm ...maybe that (Seattle ballpark revenue) factored into the timing of the deal.

Jul 24, 2012 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Don't the Mariners/Yankees pretty much sell out anyway though?

Jul 24, 2012 21:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steph Bee
BP staff

That will be coming as soon as we get word from Kevin.

Jul 23, 2012 17:36 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks.

Jul 23, 2012 18:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Added.

Jul 23, 2012 18:18 PM
 
Pat Folz

I believe it consistently underprojected him because he could maintain a really high infield hit rate, which is no longer true since he's slowed.

Jul 24, 2012 04:19 AM
rating: 3
 
NYYanks826

There have always been questions about just how much power Ichiro has, as well. With that left-field porch at Yankee Stadium, he could hit 5-10+ homers between now and the end of the season.

Jul 23, 2012 16:57 PM
rating: 1
 
HonusCobb

I predict that Ichiro Yankees jersies will now sell more than Trout and Harper the next couple weeks. But I'm lagging behind. I still need a Thome Baltimore t-shirt jersey.

Jul 23, 2012 17:19 PM
rating: 0
 
SGreenwell

I really hope that Ichiro embraces the heel role, like Hulk Hogan. You know, coming out in a Mariners' uniform, pretending like the trade was just a rumor, then tearing it off to reveal a Yankees' uniform. We need more cartoon villainy in baseball.

Side note: The wrestling analogy at the top is also fitting because tonight is the 1,000th episode of WWE/WWF Raw.

Jul 23, 2012 18:02 PM
rating: 10
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'd fear Ichiro's fingerpoke of death.

Jul 24, 2012 08:18 AM
rating: 2
 
OonBoon
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

With Lin out of the picture, New York needed a new Asian sensation. This decision came from way over Cashman's head.

Jul 24, 2012 06:18 AM
rating: -12
 
kcshankd

Perhaps it is comforting to live in a world where the greatest modern Japanese baseball player is equivalent to a Chinese-American basketball sensation, at least to black helicopter pilots. Insane. 'Asian', really?

Jul 24, 2012 06:30 AM
rating: 5
 
yankee

I know he would have cost more but I would have gone after Alex Gordon of the Royals.

Paul Dunn

Jul 24, 2012 11:03 AM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

I am surprised that a 10 time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones has to DH, while a much older outfielder Raul Ibanez, who has been a below average outfielder his entire career (right?), plays in the outfield instead. Has Jones's defensive skills declined that much compared to Ibanez's or is there some other mysterious Yankee reason why Ibanez is out there? (I understood why Jeter played short over A-Rod.) Now the Yankees acquire an outfielder whose top remaining skill is his defense - just so Jones doesn't have to go out there.

Jul 24, 2012 14:00 PM
rating: 0
 
CalledStrike3

Andrew Jones was a Gold Glover in a previous life almost ... I wonder how old he really is?

His last two Gold Gloves with Atlanta were attributed by many to his reputation.

Jul 24, 2012 15:28 PM
rating: -1
 
John Carter

I meant, "NEVER understood why Jeter played SS over A-Rod".

Jul 24, 2012 17:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Ben Solow

Based on baseball merits, I don't think there was any reason to keep Jeter at short instead of A-Rod. But could you imagine the Yankees moving "The Captain" off short to accommodate A-Rod? The indignity of it! Remember Jeter pitching a fit when Cashman discussed Jeter moving to center since he's an abysmal shortstop?

Jul 24, 2012 19:29 PM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

I suppose that is the generally accepted answer. However, those stories of the indignity of a star player getting moved to another position are probably blown out of proportion by beat writers trying to make a story. Derek Jeter is a professional. Perhaps, though, Torre felt it would play better on the teams' psyche because the new guy (Alex Rodriguez) was not disrupting the smooth operation of the existing dynasty.

Perhaps, Torre saw something in A-Rod that indicated he would be more likely to rapidly decline in range than Jeter. You gotta give Jeter credit that his game has deteriorated remarkably more slowly all around than Rodriguez's - or any of his contemporary shortstops'.

I just wish someone would honestly tell us. Perhaps, someone has already. What does Torre say in his biography (not that he would likely be 100% honest while A-Rod and Jeter are still playing)?

Jul 24, 2012 20:09 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think it was a cascading thing. Let's say you moved Jeter to CF. He won't stay there forever. Meanwhile, Rodriguez would probably stay at SS 3-4 years before having to move to 3B at some point. So basically, two players who you think are going to be on the team for 8-10 years are disrupted for a merely mild defensive improvement for 3-4 years. So, you preemptively move Rodriguez and, as a bonus, the position is less physically demanding so he's likely he'll remain healthier (though that part didn't happen)

Jul 24, 2012 21:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Ben Solow

I don't think there's anything mild about the difference between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter at shortstop. We don't have much data on A-Rod at short, but UZR loved him during his last two years with the Rangers (11.2 and 12.7 UZR/150) and UZR hates Jeter (only two seasons above 0 since 2002, and one of those was 0.9 UZR/150). Jeter has done even worse by FRAA (many years around -20), whereas A-Rod was basically an average shortstop according to FRAA. That's on the order of two wins per year.

Jul 25, 2012 08:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I didn't know the UZR numbers so thanks for those, (though I think FRAA is still bunk). I do remember at the time people felt Rodriguez was a better shortstop and FWIW, he had just won a gold glove.

Jul 25, 2012 17:43 PM
rating: 0
 
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