Ichiro Suzuki was rejuvenated by a mid-season trade to New York, and he will remain a Yankee with an agreement forthcoming, believed to be for one year. But, according to a report by ESPN.com's Buster Olney, Ichiro may turn down more money and a longer guarantee from the Phillies.
Olney reported the Phillies offered Ichiro a two-year, $14 million contract. The New York Times also reported strong Phillies interest. Charlie Manuel has long been an admirer of Ichiro. He would have probably batted leadoff in the Phillies lineup and played right field.
The offer is surprising for a few reasons, most notably, Ichiro is not the prototypical corner outfielder the Phillies require. He's 39 and posted the lowest on-base percentage of his career (.307) in 2012. He has a career slugging percentage of .419. (Although, in a small sample size, he slugged .454 with the Yankees in 240 plate appearances.) He led all of baseball in hits for five straight seasons from 2006-10.
Pat Gillick, special assistant to Ruben Amaro Jr., has a long-standing relationship with Ichiro and his agent, Tony Attansio, from his Seattle days.
A lineup with Ichiro would have theoretically resembled this:
1. Ichiro 9
2. Michael Young 5
3. Chase Utley 4
4. Ryan Howard 3
5. Carlos Ruiz 2
6. Jimmy Rollins 6
7. Domonic Brown/Darin Ruf 7
8. Ben Revere 8
The reported offer tells us four things:
1. The Phillies are turned off by the demands of the top corner outfielders on the market, Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross. This has long been the sentiment of rival executives, who had predicted a splash from Ruben Amaro Jr., only for silence to persist. The Phillies are wary of any commitment longer than three years to a player over 30, and in some cases, that is too long. Hamilton is seeking upward of five years. Swisher could net at least four years. And Ross is reportedly looking for three years.
2. The power must come from Utley and Howard. The Phillies are attempting to augment the middle of their lineup with hitter who put the ball in play. Young and Revere are not high on-base guys. Neither is Ichiro (in recent years). But Young and Ichiro are career .300 hitters and Revere reached .294 as a 24-year-old centerfielder. While there is a veritable lack of power on the corners, they are banking on production from Utley and Howard.
3. Had Ichiro signed, the Phillies would possess approximately $13 million to spend for 2013. With three new acquisitions for the lineup, the remaining funds could have been directed toward pitching upgrades. Amaro has stated he wants a "low-risk, high-reward" fifth starter. He could have aimed higher there and still had money for a veteran setup man.
4. They value the 16th overall pick in June's draft. This is an under-reported element of the winter's happenings. That pick is the highest for the Phillies since 2001. If they sign Hamilton or Swisher, they would forfeit that pick. They would also forfeit the bonus money that is tied to that pick, which drains their overall money pool for signing all drafted players under the new CBA. That pick holds great value considering all of the minor-league talent Amaro has dealt in the last three years.
Whatever the case, Amaro has stressed his need to be "creative" this winter. The reported Ichiro offer certainly falls in that category, for better or worse.