English: Ichiro Suzuki on June 10, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The New York Yankees strengthened their AL East Division-leading line-up on July 23 by trading for Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners. The 38-year-old Japanese star was acquired for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell, two minor league pitchers who are scheduled to report to triple-A team Tacoma. Howard Lincoln, the CEO of the Mariners, thanked Ichiro on behalf of the entire organization for the 12 fantastic years he spent with the club.
Suzuki asked the Mariners for a trade about two weeks prior since he felt it was better for the rebuilding club to develop younger players and it would open up some playing time for a prospect. Suzuki made his debut in Major League Baseball with Seattle back in 2001 after arriving from Japan and has been there ever since.
The outfielder was generally regarded as the first Japanese baseball star to make it big in MLB. He showed he could hit consistently, play the outfield, and had speed to burn. He leaves the Mariners with a career .322 batting average along with 99 home runs, 633 RBI, and 2,533 hits. He also stole 438 stolen bases for them. This season he was batting .261 with four homers and 28 RBI to go along with 15 stolen bases.
When arriving in New York’s clubhouse after the trade Suzuki grabbed the uniform number 31 and took his place in eighth spot in the team’s batting order. Suzuki spoke through an interpreter and said he was excited with the move since he was leaving a club that a lot of losses to one that has a lot of wins. He was emotional when speaking of the fans and his former teammates in Seattle and said even though he welcomes the trade it’s sad to think he’ll never wear a Mariners uniform again.
However, he said that he realized the Mariners were in a rebuilding process and he didn’t really fit into that mold. He feels he has a chance at helping the Yankees add yet another World Series win to their long list of championships. Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager agreed and said Suzuki is a great fit for his ball club. Suzuki then got off to a great start by hitting a single in his first at bat as a Yankee.
Suzuki will be a free agent next year and it was reported that the Yankees will be paying just only $2.5 million in salary for him this season. New York then made room for Suzuki by designating Dewayne Wise for assignment. Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager, said he was surprised Suzuki was available and is looking forward to seeing if he can help the club out as much as he believes he can.
The Yankees realize that Suzuki isn’t the same player he was as he’s now 38 years old, but feel he’s an ideal replacement for Brett Gardner, who is sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering an injury in April. Derek Jeter of the Yankees said he’s enjoyed competing against Suzuki for the past 11 years and has always admired him and is now looking forward to being a teammate of his.