While most fans were lamenting the loss of Josh Hamilton to the Angels, another outfielder was rejecting an offer from the Phillies. News broke yesterday that Ichiro Suzuki, the long time Seattle Mariner, and right fielder extraordinaire re-upped with the Yankees for two years worth about $12-13 million. What might be shocking to fans is that the Phillies were not only in on Ichiro, but offered more money!
It’s no secret that the Phils need outfield help, but the reported pursuit of Ichiro is a bit perplexing. Firstly, their greatest need right now is power, which has never been a part of his game. At age 39 it’s unlikely Ichiro would find some hidden untapped power source, making him a superfluous addition after the acquisition of Ben Revere. Matt Gelb of the Inquirer worked out what a potential lineup would have looked like had the Phils landed Ichiro. He would have hit leadoff, dropping Rollins down to 6th, and Revere to 8th. That’s a lot of speed, but no pop. The power in that lineup would come solely from Utley, Howard and Rollins whose health are a huge question marks.
Fans won’t have to worry about that problematic lineup with the Yankees desperate need to keep Suzuki in New York. If anything, the Phillies’ beguiling pursuit of Ichiro drove up his price tag and forced the Yanks to guarantee a second year. It may not bring fans the joy they were hoping for but it’s a nice consolation prize.
One conclusion about the team’s flirtation with Ichiro, which Gelb makes in his article, is most telling. The Phillies are picking 16th in the draft, their highest in several years. Had they signed Josh Hamilton, or decide to go after Nick Swisher they would have to forfeit that pick. If you have been wondering why the Phils haven’t ramped up pursuit of Nick Swisher despite the obvious fit, there’s your answer. RAJ has done nothing but pilfer the farm system since he took the reigns, and is now dealing with the consequences. For a team who has dealt countless top prospects in the past, having the 16th pick is more valuable than it would be to other clubs.
It may look bizarre at first glance, but the Phillies run at Ichiro shows that they are at least trying to be creative without mortgaging the future. RAJ and Co. could easily have looked at the roster and just pushed all the chips in. Instead they are taking the balanced approach. Signing a 39 year old former all star may not sound like the savvy move, but at least it wouldn’t have cost a future star.