Scoring runs by ways other than the home run has been a huge problem in 2012 for the New York Yankees, and with the potentially season-ending injury to Brett Gardner, it was only natural general manager Brian Cashman would look to fill the void.
The Yankees have acquired Ichiro Suzuki for RHPs DJ Mitchell and Danny Fahrquar, a source said. Yanks also get undisclosed cash in deal.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) July 23, 2012
Talk about filling a void.
Not only did Cash get the job done in terms of helping a major chink in the Yanks' armor, he also managed to add one of the best hitters this generation of baseball has ever seen.
Ichiro is the perfect fit at the top of the Yanks' order. More than anything, this team needs someone at the top of the order who can get on base and cause some havoc once he's there. With his speed and ability to make the most out of making contact, Ichiro gets a leg up on Derek Jeter, and that's strictly from a leadoff hitter standpoint.
Jeter will now most likely move down a spot in the Yanks' order into the two-hole, where he's had more success in the past. Last year alone, Jeter hit five homers and 37 RBI with a .280 batting average in 96 games at leadoff.
In the No. 2 spot, Jeter was almost superior in a third of the games. He had one homer and 24 RBI, batting .348 in just 35 games.
The two hitters at the top of the order for New York can be interchangeable if necessary, but I'd suspect Ichiro will start his Yankee tenure in the leadoff spot.
Where the Yankees lineup goes from there is anyone's guess. Dependent upon Joe Girardi's love for a lefty-righty mix all the way through the lineup, it could look something like this:
1. Ichiro Suzuki
2. Derek Jeter
4. Robinson Cano
5. Mark Texeira
6. Curtis Granderson
7. Nick Swisher (when healthy)
8. Raul Ibanez
9. Russell Martin
Again, that lineup is interchangeable, but how about the Bombers having a guy batting sixth who is on pace for 40 homers this season? I'll say no more.
The recent injury to Nick Swisher means the Yanks faced another problem before Ichiro's acquisition. They will have lost their second outfielder to injury for a period of time and have to rely on the likes of veterans Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones to cover the ground out there.
Ichiro has always been a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder and will be a huge plus over just about anyone the Yanks could start in a corner outfield spot.
With the shoring up of a major problem, the Yankees have greatly improved themselves while spending very little to do it. DJ Mitchell and Danny Fahrquar isn't exactly a king's ransom when paying for a Hall of Fame player.
Ichiro also fits into the Yanks' financial plans as he becomes a free agent after this season, in which case the Bombers can try to work out a more payroll-friendly contract that won't cost what Suzuki is making this season ($18 million).
Some will argue that Ichiro could be over the hill and the Bombers are just getting an old .261 hitter whose career will fizzle out right before the eyes of everyone in the Yankees Universe. Even if that happens, it was certainly worth risking two lesser minor-leaguers to give it a shot.
Playing in Seattle has been nothing short of horrific from the winning perspective throughout Ichiro's MLB career, and being that he's only human, that might have led to complacency over the years.
One thing's for certain: If there's any place that could shake him out of it, it's the Bronx. Ichiro will no longer be the focus of whatever bad lineup was around him, but rather a piece in a great lineup with a ton more protection in his midst.
If not, as I mentioned before, it costs them next to nothing to have attempted such an intriguing experiment.
Yes, the deal does seem easy for the Yankees, but maybe Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik felt bad about what happened to Michael Pineda and decided to give the Bombers a break. That must have happened right after he flew into Cashman's office on a purple unicorn, Ichiro trade offer in hand.
New York already has a solid bullpen that's ranked fifth in the AL in ERA and that's before the possible returns of Joba Chamberlain, David Aardsma and Mariano Rivera. They also have a rotation that is awaiting Andy Pettitte's return from injury all the while sporting a starting five that is ranked third in ERA.
Combine that with the fact that the Bombers now have more than one way to skin a cat offensively, and you have a team with the best record in baseball potentially becoming the most complete team in baseball.