Offseason acquisitions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran drastically altered the outfield picture for the team, as Brett Gardner will now shift over to left field and Alfonso Soriano will likely split right field and designated hitter with Beltran.
When Ellsbury needs a day off, Gardner will shift to center. When either corner outfielder needs a day off, Soriano will likely take his place. That would open DH for any of the Yankees' aging veterans (i.e. Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira).
Buster Olney points out that this makes Ichiro expendable:
...there doesn’t seem to be a strong match considering that the Phillies are right up against the $189 million luxury tax when everything is factored in. The Yankees would have to pay just about the entirety of his $6.5 million salary or take back an equally-expensive player in return, such as reliever Mike Adams ($7 million) who is recovering from a torn rotator cuff and two labrum tears.
To that I say, so what?
Swapping Ichiro for Mike Adams makes far too much sense for a deal not to happen, in my opinion. For one, Ichiro won't find significant playing time with the Yankees. Having his salary sit on the bench and gather dust would be a waste of resources.
Adams—who threw successfully off the mound this past weekend, reports Paul Hagen of MLB.com—would provide a strong veteran presence at the back of a Yankees bullpen that desperately lacks leadership.
Adams underwent surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder last season, but he says (via Hagen) that everything is feeling just fine: "I think it [his weekend bullpen session] went real good—very, very good. I've noticed the advances I've made over the last couple bullpens and how it's coming out of my hand. Right now, everything is going the way I'd hoped."
Likely a few weeks behind other relievers in spring camp, Adams might take an extra week or two to get up to game speed. That doesn't appear to be a huge risk for the Yankees, so if Philadelphia is interested, the Yankees should jump all over this deal.
Adams, 35, has been one of the top setup men in baseball since 2008. He has recorded ERAs of 2.48, 0.73, 1.76, 1.47, 3.27 and 3.96 since that season. He is enough of a power pitcher to get strikeouts in tough spots, though he relies on good command to force batters to hit his pitch.
Acquiring Adams would make the Yankees bullpen much deeper. Shawn Kelley is currently the lead candidate to set up David Robertson, though that's not really an ideal situation. Adams has experience in the role and would help form a strong bridge from the starter to Robertson.
Come September of this season, the Yankees have the ability to make the back end even stronger if Andrew Bailey comes back healthy. A trio of Bailey, Adams and Robertson would be devastating for the opposition.
Trading Ichiro would also open the door for Zoilo Almonte to get a full-time gig as the reserve outfielder. Almonte hit .236/.274/.302 in 106 at-bats with the Yankees last season, launching one homer and driving in nine.
Through 14 at-bats this spring, Almonte is hitting .286/.333/.357 with a double.
Of course, trading Ichiro might make the transition process a little more difficult for Masahiro Tanaka. Both Ichiro and Hiroki Kuroda will presumably act as Tanaka's aids in getting acquainted with New York and baseball in the States.
In the end, trading Ichiro should come down to how the Yankees choose to use their resources. Leaving him on the 25-man roster would essentially be a waste if he's not going to play. Trading him for Adams would make use of that salary—potentially in a big way.
A healthy Adams would really deepen the bullpen. The move makes too much sense not to make if both parties are interested in making a deal.
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