Over the course of the last week, there has been a rumor making the rounds about the Yankees’ interest in J.J.Putz. More specifically, it names Ichiro Suzuki as the target of the Diamondbacks’ interest, read HERE. On paper, it looks like an opportunity for both teams, as it solves logjams on both sides of the trade. The Diamondbacks just signed Addison Reed and need to move Putz. The Yankees have six outfielders with significant playing time in the outfield, not to mention the up-and-coming rookies, and at least one of them has to go. Is this a win-win, or a disaster in the making?
J.J. Putz has been closing games for the majority of his 11 seasons in the majors, having accumulated 189 saves in his career. The question is, is he a reliable pitcher as of right now? He was the primary closer for 2011 and 2012 for the Arizona Diamondbacks, getting 77 saves over those two seasons. He was also closing for the Mariners back in 2006-2008. However in 2013, he hit rough times, converting only five of nine save opportunities by the end of April. After injuring his elbow, he lost the closer role to Heath Bell. He only saw one more 9th inning save opportunity for the rest of the season – where he blew the save – and was relegated to setup and mop up work. When you see that from a pitcher who will turn 37 before the season starts, you are not thinking that he had a bad year. You are thinking that he may be done. Which is why this rumor is not the hopeful kind.
On the Yankees side, the 40-year old Ichiro Suzuki had a non-stellar but respectable 2013 season. Despite hitting only .222 over the last two months of the season, he still finished the season with a .262 average. He put in his time, clocking in for 555 plate appearances over 150 games. His fielding percentage of .989 was slightly above the league average and his range factor was a little below the league average. All stats say he is a respectable major leaguer, his best days are clearly behind him, and he if he wants to play he will not be forced into retirement quite yet.
Therefore, here is the dilemma. The Yankees still need help in the bullpen, and they have outfielders in surplus. With Ichiro’s productivity being on a downward slope, he would be a good candidate to put on the block. Make no mistake - I am not happy about putting him out there. Nevertheless, someone has to go, and you are not going to get a whole lot of value when you are offering your worst outfielder. If we are going to offer Ichiro to someone, can we not get more for him? Ichiro may not be an All-Star anymore, but I would like to think that someone would offer more than a 37-year old pitcher with a 55% save percentage in his prior season.
The rumor continues to get airtime, and we will see what happens. Brian Cashman, if you are reading this, take this to heart. This deal, if true, has trouble written all over it.
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