Ichiro Suzuki: Is He Just a Name, or Will He Improve the New York Yankees?
Just six months after pulling off a major trade with the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees and Mariners made headlines once again Monday when it was learned that longtime Mariner Ichiro Suzuki was traded to the Yankees.
The Yankees traded pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Fahrquar to the Mariners in exchange for the 12-year veteran.
Ichiro will help bolster a Yankee lineup that recently lost outfielder Brett Gardner for the season because of an elbow injury.
The Yankees and Mariners made a splash during this past hot stove season when the Yankees sent top catching prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners in exchange for Michael Pineda.
The first Japanese hitter to find success in the majors, Ichiro has firmly cemented his place in Cooperstown during his 12 seasons in Seattle. Despite struggling the past two seasons, Ichiro was still a big draw in Seattle and is one of the biggest stars in MLB.
Ichiro enters the largest media market having already accomplished plenty in his career. The 38-year-old outfielder has amassed 2,533 hits during his career, including a record 262 hits in 2004.
Despite his individual accomplishments, Ichiro has yet to win a World Series ring. He has only played in the postseason once, during the 2001 season. His move to New York gives him a great opportunity to help the Yankees win their 28th championship.
The 10-time All-Star's skills have declined over the last two seasons. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Ichiro has only managed a measly .302 on-base percentage—64 points below his career OBP. Ichiro's .642 OPS in 2012 is 142 points below his career average.
While the Yankees didn't give up much to obtain Ichiro, will his addition help the American League's fourth-ranked offense?
Even if Ichiro doesn't perform well in Yankee Stadium, his presence will undoubtedly create league-wide interest, as well as garner international attention. One of Japan's most popular citizens playing for one of the world's most famous franchises will definitely be a boon to turnstiles and television ratings.
The real question is how Ichiro will help the Yankees who, despite being swept by the upstart A's this past weekend, are still comfortably in first place and leading the second-place Baltimore Orioles by six games.
While Ichiro is still an effective outfielder with one of the strongest and most accurate throwing arms, his legendary bat has been extraordinarily quiet the past season and a half.
Since the All-Star break, Ichiro has continued his poor play on offense, managing only 12 hits in 46 at-bats.
The hope for the Yankees and their fans is that Ichiro will find new life on baseball's biggest stage, and will help the Bronx Bombers win their division and perhaps more.
While Ichiro has bounced around Seattle's lineup this season, primarily batting first through third, he could be a spark for the Yankees at the top occasionally. But, he would likely shore up the back of the Yankee lineup until he proves he has something left to offer on offense.
While it's easy to accuse Yankees general manager Brian Cashman of bringing Ichiro to New York in order to sell tickets and create buzz, Ichiro's arrival is a risk-free move bringing one of the last decade's most professional and accomplished players to New York.
With a relatively small sample size, Ichiro has come up big during crucial moments since joining the league in 2001. Ichiro batted .421 in the 2001 postseason, racking up 16 hits in 38 at-bats.
Back in his home country, where Ichiro is obviously the biggest draw for the fans, Ichiro knocked four hits on opening day this season and lead the Mariners to a victory over the A's.
With easily the biggest stage in baseball and probably all of American sports, Yankee Stadium should prove to be an adrenaline shot for Ichiro, rejuvenating his career while helping him earn his last elusive accomplishment—a World Series championship.
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