New York Yankees: Could Ichiro Suzuki End Up as the Right Fielder in 2013?

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IAugust 5, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30:  Ichiro Suzuki #31 of the New York Yankees follows through on his seventh inning home run against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on July 30, 2012  in the Bronx borough of New York City. The blast was Suzuki's first as a Yankee and the 100th of his major league career.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

At the trade deadline, the Yankees made a risky deal with the Seattle Mariners to land longtime superstar Ichiro Suzuki.

A lot of people wondered if Ichiro was going to be cooperative coming to the Bronx after being the face of the franchise in Seattle for nearly 11 years.

Ichiro had to change his number from 51 to 31, he was no longer hitting in the leadoff spot, he had to move from right field to left field and he may at times have to sit against lefty pitching.

Before making the trade, Ichiro agreed to all of this, and thus far, he hasn't been a problem for Joe Girardi and the team.

Since coming over to the Yankees on July 23, he's hitting .260 (12-for-46) with one home run, two RBI and three steals while playing both left and right field.

Ichiro also has a 12-game hitting streak, which began after he became a member of the Yankees.

He's been used mostly as a No. 8 hitter in the batting order, and he gives New York the speed element again in the lineup.

Ichiro is in the final year of his contract, and the $17 million he'll make in 2012 is likely the last time he'll see superstar money before he becomes a free agent.  

Ichiro isn't the only outfielder that will be a free agent after the 2012 season, as Nick Swisher will be on the market as well.

Swisher as a free agent could end up getting a long-term deal from another team, and there's been a lot of chatter about the Yankees potentially not bringing Swisher back, especially considering that they have to figure out extensions for Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin.

So if Swisher does in fact go elsewhere for 2013, will the Yankees consider bringing Ichiro back for 2013 to play right field?

Ichiro will certainly be a cheaper option in free agency, considering he's no longer on the superstar level he once was.

Sure, he doesn't have the power in his bat that Swisher does, but as an outfielder, he's a better defensive option with his speed, arm and athletic ability.

Losing Swisher would be a hard loss to the Yankees' lineup, but it wouldn't be the end of the world, considering they have Cano, Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez as their main power hitters.

The Yankees really seem destined to get their payroll under the $189 million mark before 2014, which means they aren't spending heavily in a free agency anymore; otherwise, Prince Fielder could have been the DH for the pinstripes. 

Instead, Raul Ibanez was brought in on a one-year deal for about $20 million less than Fielder. Ibanez only has three fewer home runs than Fielder does right now (18 for Fielder, 15 for Ibanez).

Now, I'm only guessing that Fielder could have been a Yankee if they weren't trying to budget their payroll, or if George Steinbrenner was still alive and running the majority of the team. 

Yankees GM Brian Cashman has been looking for ways to cut spending and find production from veteran players on cheaper deals.

Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ibanez are all results of Cashman gambling and getting it right.

He could gamble again by letting Swisher walk and bringing Ichiro back on a cheaper deal for 2013.

Ultimately, I think Cashman will decide on what to do about the right-field spot after seeing how Ichiro and Swisher finish the season and perform in the playoffs.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.