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.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.