Ichiro is now a New York Yankee. The former Mariners’ right fielder and future Hall of Famer was dealt to the Yankees on Monday for a couple of minor league pitchers. The deal was consummated a few hours before the two teams faced off in Seattle on Monday.
The 10-time All-Star, in the final year of his contract, now has a chance to play in the postseason for the first time since 2001. “I am going to a team with the most wins from a team with the most losses,” Ichiro said. “It’s hard to contain my excitement.”
Ichiro is leaving a team where he was the biggest star for a team with multiple and bigger stars. He’s expected to play left field for the Bronx Bombers. “I haven’t played left for a long time to be honest,” said Ichiro. “The last time I played left was in a playoff game in Yankee Stadium [in 2001].”
Trading Ichiro makes sense for the Mariners on many different levels The Mariners have been rebuilding for many years with no end in sight. Mariners’ General Manager Jack Zduriencik said Monday it “was the right thing to do.” Ichiro was taking playing time away from some younger players that management needed to evaluate. With Ichiro off the team, manager Eric Wedge has more flexibility to try different lineups for the remainder of this year.
The trade also gives the team more flexibility this offseason. Ichiro was the highest paid Mariner and was rumored to sign a lucrative extension this offseason. If the Mariners keep their current payroll for next season, they will be able to invest the $18M that Ichiro made into a couple of younger and more productive free agent bats.
The Yankees acquired Ichiro to replace the injured Brett Gardner who is out for the season. For the Yankees, it’s a no-brainer. The Mariners picked up the majority of the remaining dollars on Ichiro’s contract and they gave up only a couple of mid-level arms.
If Ichiro plays like he has the past couple of years, it will be a mild upgrade to the platoon of players that the Yankees have been playing in left in Gardner’s absence. But, if Ichiro rises to the challenge and plays like the superstar he once was under the brightest lights of New York City, the trade can propel the Yankees to another World Series.