While the Yankees mull over their options on who they will bring aboard to replace Nick Swisher in right field, Ichiro Suzuki has come forward and said he would prefer to return to New York this coming season after being acquired at the deadline last year.
According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the 39-year-old has drawn interest from a number of teams, but he enjoyed his time with the Yankees last season and would like to return.
That doesn't come as a big surprise, as Ichiro was hitting .261 BA, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 49 R through 402 at-bats at the time of the trade, but seemed revitalized by the move to a contender as he hit .322 BA, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 28 R through 227 at-bats with Yankees.
After making $17 million in the final year of a five-year, $90 million deal last season, it is safe to assume that Ichiro will command significantly less this coming season.
It's hard to imagine him signing anything beyond a two-year deal, and something like a one-year, $8 million contract seems like a reasonable guess, with $10 million likely being the ceiling on what he'll cost in 2013.
For a Yankees team looking to stay under the luxury-tax threshold, that is significant while they search for a replacement for Russell Martin behind the plate, an answer at closer and perhaps more starting pitching.
The Yankees already have roughly $160 million committed to next year's team, and that is without the money they'll have to pay Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Boone Logan and a handful of others in arbitration, which MLB Trade Rumors estimates will come to another $17.9 million.
In order to stay at last year's payroll of about $210 million, that would essentially leave the Yankees with $32 million to spend on players for the coming season.
If Ichiro can be had for $8 million, the team would have $24 million to use in pursuit of one of the market's top catchers in Mike Napoli or A.J. Pierzynski, or more likely another mid-level starting pitcher to fill out the rotation behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.
Ichiro is aging, and he is not the same dynamic player he once was, but he showed he is still capable of making an impact during his time with the Yankees last season. Signing him would be a low-cost way to fill the hole in right field and would free up more money for the Yankees to improve in other areas. All in all, it seems like the team's best move at this point, and one that Ichiro would welcome with open arms.