From Dayn Perry, at Fox:
Last season, Ichiro grew uncomfortable with clubhouse insouciance in the face of losing, and rumors of a rift with manager Mike Hargrove are widespread.
Such palace intrigue is never a welcome turn of events for any team, but in this instance, it provides GM Bill Bavasi with the tidy rationale needed to do something especially bold — trading Ichiro.
Ichiro is an exceptional defender, a gifted base runner, a solid hitter and, by all accounts, a tremendous human being. However, Ichiro’s lack of power — while playing a position that demands it — serves to make him overrated in most circles. Also consider that Ichiro’s current contract expires after the 2007 season. At that time he’ll be 34 years of age and, in all likelihood, in the midst of his decline phase.
Ichiro’s also a player whose actual value exceeds his perceived value, and that’s precisely the kind of player who needs to be traded. Any team with a modicum of payroll flexibility and a vacancy at any of the three outfield spots would (wisely) have interest. Without probing deeply, the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants all meet those criteria. To boot, the Mariners are not poised to contend over the remainder of Ichiro’s current contract; so it’s not as though they’d be sacrificing a playoff berth by trading him.
To indulge for a moment in the hypothetical, the M’s might pry Philip Hughes and Eric Duncan from the Yankees, Jon Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia from the Red Sox, Anthony Reyes and others from the Cardinals or any number of high-ceiling Dodgers talents. For a team in short-term rebuilding mode, those are some alluring names. Also, given the certain trade interest Ichiro would elicit around the league, the forces of demand might drive the price even higher.
Truly, if the Yankees were told that it would take Philip Hughes and Eric Duncan to get Ichiro, the deal would have been done already. It’s going to take more than that to allow the M’s ownership to deal their jewel.
But, do the Yankees have more? Consider that they were already told that they don’t have what it takes to get Aaron Rowand in a trade. So, how could they come up with an offer to pry Ichiro?
Don’t get me wrong. I think Perry has a point – basically, Ichiro is a .300 batter with a .350 On Base Average who would be lucky to touch a Slugging Percentage of .440. (Yes, I think his 2004 season was a fluke for him.) Still, he’d be a lot better than Bubba Crosby in the Yankees outfield next year.
I just don’t see him coming to the Yankees unless he pulls a Randy Johnson thing and demands a trade – and only to New York. And, I think the chances of that happening are just as likely as Arn Tellum being invited over to Big Stein’s house for a Thanksgiving calzone this Thursday.