The Mariners were always nervous about making changes with Ichiro Suzuki. It took them several years to try him in center field, and when they finally moved him from the leadoff spot this year, they gave him plenty of notice to see how he’d react.
Now, with Monday’s trade to the Yankees, Ichiro’s world is about to be turned upside down.
In New York, Ichiro will have to…
1. Give up his No. 51
2. Play left field most of the time
3. Hit lower in a lineup than ever before
Taking the first of those, technically Bernie Williams’ No. 51 isn’t retired in the Bronx, though it hasn’t been handed out since he retired. It’s a given that it’s only a matter of time until it is retired, and thus, Ichiro isn’t going to try to lay claim to it.
The other two are on-field issues. Ichiro has never played left field in a regular-season game, though he indicated that he is agreeable to it. It will be more interesting to see how he handles hitting at the bottom of the order. At today’s press conference, manager Joe Girardi said he wanted to talk to Ichiro about the lineup before making any announcements. Odds are that Ichiro is going to hit ninth most of the time, just like Brett Gardner did before he got hurt.
That’s going to be a lot for Ichiro to deal with, and it may challenge him, given the amount of pride he’s displayed in his Hall of Fame career. The fact that it is the Yankees could make a difference. Ichiro certainly wouldn’t have been happy batting ninth and playing left field for the Mariners and maybe not any other team. However, he clearly has a lot of respect for the pinstripes, maybe for Joe Girardi, too. It really is a good fit for him, and if he can make the most of it over these next couple of months, he’ll be in much greater demand this winter than he would have been otherwise.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.