Phillies, Ichiro Suzuki A Fit?

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this yesterday:

Ichiro’s adjusted OPS over the last three seasons: 86, 83, 75, after being at least 106 from 2001-10. Consistently an above-.300 hitter, Ichiro’s batting average ranged from .262 last year to .283 over the last three seasons. In 2013, he nearly tied a career-high strikeout rate while he posted one of his lowest walk rates with an ISO below .100. He’s now 40 years old.

Depending on which version of Wins Above Replacement you use, Ichiro has ranged somewhere between replacement level and slightly above average over the last three seasons. But on a Phillies bench that could have no true left-handed hitter, the conjecture does have some validity.

GM Ruben Amaro said during the off-season that he wanted to add a left-handed hitting outfielder capable of playing center field, but given how scarce that particular type of player has been, he settled on signing Bobby Abreu, also soon to be 40 years old, to a minor league deal. Aside from drawing five walks, Abreu hasn’t looked great, hitting just .111 in 18 at-bats thus far. Depending on how many outfielders the Phillies would like to carry, Ichiro would either join or displace John Mayberry, and Darin Ruf would certainly start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies are close to the luxury tax threshold, however, once you account for everything. The Yankees would have to cover a majority or all of Ichiro’s $6.5 million salary, or take a similarly-paid player such as Mike Adams ($7 million and also recovering from a serious shoulder injury) in return.

PECOTA projects Ichiro to hit .280 with a .245 true average (TAv; average is .260) and 0.2 WARP. He can still steal bases, but in a bench role, it’s hard to see him running all that often. He only attempted it 24 times, stealing 20 bases successfully, in 555 plate appearances last season. He might be lucky to steal 10 bases in a part-time role with the Phillies. It seems that, if there is any interest in grabbing Ichiro, they would simply be giving up something — a player and/or cash — to make, essentially, no upgrade at all.

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11 comments

  1. Bob

    March 10, 2014 09:02 AM

    But if you add Ichiro, you do get a lefty, with speed, capable of being a backup in Center Field. Rather than looking at WARP in a vacuum, in should be WAMayberry. If the Phillies just lean on Ichiro’s strengths to:

    1. Be a lefty pinch hitter
    2. Add outfield depth / be a defensive replacement for Ruf should Ruf ever find himself out there.
    3. Pinch run (beyond his speed, he is a smart base runner)
    4. Bring in some Japanese fandollars to offset his expenses
    5. Keep Abreu in Venezuela
    6. Get Mayberry off this team
    7. Make utley/howard/rollins feel young (I kid)

    Look – it’s not a great upgrade, but the sum of leveraging strengths can up to more WAR, as the weaknesses are minimized in the equation.

  2. larry

    March 10, 2014 09:44 AM

    the phillies might need “outfield help” but i don’t see ichiro being much help to this team

  3. Scott

    March 10, 2014 12:59 PM

    How about we aim a little younger. The White Sox have an 2 extra outfielders. Alejandro De Aza would do nicely. A lefty with 20/20 potential and can play all 3 OF spots (30 yrs old). Waay cheaper than Ichiro. It would would require a trade, but this what RAJ gets paid for. This town deserves better than Abreu or Delmon Young. The bench is important lets upgrade.

  4. Phillie697

    March 10, 2014 02:47 PM

    Where is proof that Ichiro is an adequate CF at 40 years old to call him a capable backup? Last time he played any significant amount of time at CF was 2008. Yes, he did fine back then, but we are talking about 6 years ago for a 40-year-old OF. I would not make assumptions or projections about any 40 year old player doing something adequately that he hasn’t done in 6 years. If the premise is that we want a left-handed-batting backup CF, Ichiro is not who I would look to.

    Besides, last year his split was HUGE, and not what you would expect. He was TERRIBLE against right-handed pitching, but slightly above average against left-handed pitching. Not the kind of lefty bat we’re actually looking for; we got plenty of backup dudes that can mash left-handed pitchers.

  5. Mark66

    March 10, 2014 04:01 PM

    The Phis are to old period. Cut Abreu and forget Ichiro. Too many younger options out there.

  6. Johnmatrix

    March 10, 2014 10:52 PM

    How do the phillies need outfield help? Revere is an everyday starter, so is brown and byrd.

  7. Mark66

    March 11, 2014 01:27 PM

    How long before this spring team hits the baseball and gets on base ? The spring is half over and this veteran team is not getting on base ? Maybe they need to get younger sooner rather than later. At this rate they will be out of the playoffs by the end of April !!

  8. Mark66

    March 11, 2014 04:28 PM

    Here we are another spring game with 2 meesly hits. When will the excuses for not hitting stop ??

  9. Julia

    March 13, 2014 07:33 AM

    I don’t understand why we would pay 6 and a half million for Ichiro, it’s honestly not worth it. He’s what… 40 years old? And he would probably be replacing John Mayberry which is stupid because mayberry is one of the few Phillies that can actually hit. And yeah, Ichiro might be a good pinch hitter, but what good does a lefty pinch hitter do if no one else gets on base?? I don’t see why we would pay that much money for a player that we wouldn’t even benefit from… there are way too many younger players out there.

  10. Robby Bonfire

    March 16, 2014 02:28 PM

    Oh great, an over-priced, fossilized, corner outfielder devoid of power with a low walk rate/OBA, who qualifies for a discussion here as to whether he would be a “fit” with this team because he can still hit “the short ball” once in a blue moon. I submit that as long as RAJ is in charge, the answer is a resounding “YES!”

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