Phillies, Ichiro Suzuki A Fit?
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this yesterday:
Ichiro Suzuki does not have a no-trade clause, and he appears to be the odd man out in the NYY outfield. The Phillies need outfield help.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 9, 2014
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.