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Posted: Monday, July 23 at 8:30 p.m. ET
The New York Yankees found their replacement for Brett Gardner on Monday, making what may be the most surprising trade of the year.
As first reported by YES Network's Jack Curry, the Yankees acquired outfielder Ichiro Suzuki for the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.The Yankees will pick up $2.25 million of the $6.7 million remaining on Suzuki's contract, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman.
Of course, another reason the Yankees didn't have to give up much in trading for Suzuki is that he's not having a very good year and will be a free agent after the season. Suzuki, 38, is batting .261/.288/.353 with four home runs, 28 RBI and 15 stolen bases. That is far below his career batting average of .322.
By trading Suzuki, the Mariners rid themselves of what was sure to be a difficult, awkward situation in the offseason. Should the team re-sign a hugely popular figure when he's clearly past his prime? Or was it time to move on, cast an eye toward the future and put a more capable player with more upside in right field?
The Mariners should also be off the hook from a public relations standpoint. In a press release (posted here by the Seattle Times' Geoff Baker), team CEO Howard Lincoln revealed that Suzuki requested to be traded several weeks ago, realizing that the team needed to go with younger players in the lineup.
Can Ichiro Suzuki help the Yankees?
As surprising as the trade was, did the Yankees pick up a name more than a player who can make a contribution?
Suzuki still plays excellent defense in right field, so he certainly helps the Yankees in that aspect of the game. Their outfield defense is much improved now.
However, Suzuki might not be able to replace Gardner at the plate. He is clearly in decline and hasn't produced runs for the Mariners. But perhaps that could change with the Yankees. Will Suzuki be rejuvenated by leaving a rebuilding team and playing for a World Series contender? That's clearly what the Yankees are hoping.
Watching Suzuki in another uniform—and it happened fast, with the Yankees in Seattle to play the Mariners—is going to be an adjustment for every baseball fan. But it could be exciting to watch him participate in a playoff race and the postseason. It could provide a nice way for Suzuki to end his career.