Analysis Of The Ichiro Trade

For the record, this trade defies analysis.  At its core, this trade is one of convenience.  It’s good for the Mariners because now they can start Wells every day.  They can continue to play Saunders every day (even when Guti comes back, if Guti ever comes back).  And, they can give Mike Carp regular playing time (between left field and first base) to see if there’s anything there worth keeping around for next season.

The Yankees get a still-good defender (though, they’re going to shoe-horn him into left field; I’m sure Ichiro will be as up to the task as he was when playing center field for Grover) who will be a major upgrade over Raul Ibanez (who the Yankees blogs seem to loathe).  They get a guy who still has a lot of speed and stolen base potential.  AND, they don’t have to feature him in the top third of their lineup like the Mariners have been doing.  With a guy like Ichiro, batting what Ichiro has been batting over the last two seasons, it’s a lot easier to justify his playing time if you’re able to bury him at 9th in the lineup.  And finally, it’s a lot easier to justify bringing in Ichiro at all when you’re only paying him $2 million over the rest of this contract.  At season’s end, if Ichiro is terrible, let him go.

And, quite frankly, this is a boon for Ichiro himself.  He asked for the trade, but he did so quietly.  That shows the respect he has for this organization.  I’m sure he didn’t demand to which team he’d be traded, but I’m sure landing with the Yankees had to have been at or near the top of his list.  He is all but guaranteed to make his second-ever playoff appearance on a team with a real shot at going all the way.  And, most importantly of all, he will have an opportunity to play every day (or nearly every day) thanks to Brett Gardner being out for the season.

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I’ve been hearing people talk about the Mariners saving money and how that’s a good thing; are you high?  First of all, the Mariners are still picking up $5 million on his tab; how is that saving ANYTHING?  Secondly, this money is already spent.  The deal ends at the end of this season; any money the Mariners save is ONLY good for improving their bottom line.  It’s not like that $2 million is going to roll over into next year.  It’s not like they’re going to make a trade for someone else’s high-priced contract.  That money is GONE.  So, stop talking about the money like it’s anything other than what we already hate this organization for:  the Mariners pinching pennies and getting away with it.

Also, let’s get this out of the way:  this trade was never going to be for some amazing hitter or high-end prospect.  D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar are probably – at-best – decent pitchers for the Tacoma Rainiers for a couple of seasons before they flame out of professional baseball entirely.  You can’t sit there and expect to fleece a Major League ballclub in a trade for a guy like Ichiro.  They have scouts, they can read stat lines, they know all about sabermetrics, and they have eyes.  What they see with those eyes is a 38 year old singles hitter who doesn’t walk, has a sub-.270 batting average, and is no longer the dynamo he was just three years ago.  I know, as a Mariners fan, you see Ichiro and you see an All Star, Gold Glove leadoff hitter with a career .322 batting average.  But, as objective, non-Mariners fans, every other front office in the Major Leagues sees a guy who is past his prime, playing in one of his final seasons (if not his actual final season).

In other words, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot out of the pitchers we received.  If they’re even marginally better than Hector Noesi, I’ll be ecstatic.

This trade came as a shock not just for its timing, but for the fact that it happened at all.  I think most Mariners fans thought we’d be seeing Hell frozen over before we’d see them ship off their most marketable commodity (in fact, has anyone checked Hell recently?  is it still warm down there?).  A few of us thought (and hoped) that this 2012 season would conclude and we would all be glued to our TVs (if not cheering wildly at Safeco) on October 3rd as Ichiro played in his final game as a Seattle Mariner.  He would retire after the game, a franchise leader in so much, and we would be counting down the days until his Hall of Fame speech.  Others thought we’d get to season’s end, Ichiro would expect a new contract, the Mariners would balk at making an offer, and he would leave the organization in a huff.  I think the majority of us feared we’d get to season’s end and Ichiro either would have already signed or would eventually be re-signed before next season to a long-term (2, 3, 4 year) deal, for many more millions of dollars than he’d be worth.  Resentment would set in.  Resentment mostly for the organization so foolish as to think that would be a good idea for a team aspiring to win ANYTHING, and resentment for Ichiro himself, through no fault of his own.

In short, as I’ve said before, this trade is probably the best possible outcome, even if we don’t get to say a proper goodbye.  But, we have two more games at Safeco with Ichiro, even if he is wearing the wrong uniform.  Go out and show him how much you care.  Because the first game the Mariners play without Ichiro involved in some way is going to be fucking strange.

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