Before the 2014 season started, Ichiro Suzuki's name was heavily mentioned on the trading block considering he was the fourth and at times, the fifth outfielder in a group involving Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano.
However, the Yankees hung onto Ichiro depsite rumors of potentially shipping him off to a team like the Philadelphia Phillies and due to the injury suffered by Carlos Beltran, the Yankees are looking smart for hanging onto the Japanese veteran because he has rewarded them with his play.
With Beltran dealing with bone spurs in his elbow, Ichiro's playing time has increased and thus far, he's hitting .338 (26-for-77) with no home runs and three RBI and three stolen bases in 39 games for the Yankees. Ichiro and Soriano have split time in right field with Beltran on the DL and in games where Soriano is the DH, Ichiro plays the field and still shows that he can still play at high level.
Last year while playing for the Yankees in 150 games, Ichiro hit just .262 with seven home runs and 35 RBI, which was significantly down from the .322 he hit with the Yankees the season before when he was acquired by the Yankees from the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline last season and the low batting average started to tell people that Ichiro was not only on the decline and end of his career, but worth even keeping on the roster, and making the two-year, $13 million deal that the Yankees signed him to before the 2013 season look like a complete bust.
For the Yankees sake, Brian Cashman decided to trust his better judgment; the same judgment that prompted him to make the trade with the Mariners to land Ichiro two summers ago because if he had traded Ichiro before the season, he would be in a really big bind when Beltran went down with the elbow injury and would be in an even bigger bind if Beltran needs surgery on it.
If Soriano was forced to play right field on a regular basis, it could have caused him to wear down by the end of the season considering the Yankees wanted him to play most of the season as a part-time outfielder and a designated hitter, but with Ichiro still around, the Yankees can simply put Ichiro in the field where he's still a capable fielder and because of sitting on the bench earlier in the season; with fresher legs, and allow Soriano to concentrate mostly on hitting while playing a part-time role in the outfield.
If the Yankees do get Beltran back, the Yankees would be wise to continue to use Ichiro on a regular basis because he's shown this season that he's still more than capable of playing at a high level and essentially, is a bargain for the $6.5 million that they are paying him this season because in 2014, he's been playing more than just a fourth outfielder and is paying off wonders for the Yankees.
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