As the word hit the interwebs that the New York Yankees had acquired Ichiro Suzuki, a few Reds fans were wondering how the Reds couldn’t have put a deal together in order to gain his services. The thought was his bat at the top of the order would be a fantastic fit.
As we hear Lee Corso say, “not so fast, my friend”.
Not a Reds fan can debate the top two spots in the lineup haven’t held the success we had hoped to see. Overall, the guys that have taken hacks in the lineup’s top spot have “produced” a combined slash of .202/.248/.308. That is far from the NL average of .255/.316/.378. In looking at the two main guys Dusty Baker has penciled into that lead-off spot, the numbers look, for lack of a better word, ugly.
The OPS for the duo: .583. Huh? This, as they say, won’t cut it. But as bizarre as it seems, the Good Guys keep winning. Yes, it does need a little fixing.
I must ask: How could have Ichiro figured into solving the Reds lead-off woes? Realistically, maybe not that much, if at all.
If you observe only the straight numbers, Ichiro holds an OBP of .288 while Stubbs owns an OBP of .289. Cozart’s OBP is .292. That might surpise you unless you saw Lance McAlister tweet such last night. When you peel back, Ichiro’s OBP as a lead-off hitter is .255. Worse than Cozart, better than Stubbs. Like Cozart (.417 in 18 starts) and Stubbs (.311 in 51 starts), Ichiro’s OBP is better from the 2-hole (.305), but the Reds pair of Cozart and Stubbs is still better.
And think about this. Ichiro draws the vast majority of his OBP through hits. He’s only drawn 17 walks the entire season. Cozart (15) and Stubbs (5) have more from the lead-off position.
I doubt anyone can effectively argue that the Ichiro we’re seeing in 2012 is not the same Ichiro from 2010 or even last year. Definitely not the same Ichiro we’ve seen in years past.
Make the argument that he would have put more butts in the seats at GABP, but the Reds are averaging higher attendance this year (29,027) compared to 2011 (27,328) and 2010 (25,439). The Reds are 17th in MLB average attendance. They draw more per game than the contending Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates (and for the life of me I can’t understand why they aren’t drawing more), Oakland A’s, and Baltimore Orioles. Considering Cincinnati is baseball’s smallest market, it does say something about the supportive Reds fan base.
That said, it does provide a pause for thought. Change of scenery? Change of atmosphere? Being on a contender? All have means for motivation. He’s getting all three being in the Big Apple. That could be said for a number of locales. There is also the added plus that he won’t be the focal point of the Yankee offense. He was 8th in last night’s Yankee lineup. The Yanks got a few bats there.
Coming to Cincinnati would put Ichiro as a focal point of the offense. Maybe not the focal point especially when Joey Votto returns and given the current production from the likes of Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier. Mix in a little Scott Rolen. Over the last six games, the Reds are batting .279. That falls only to .270 over the past 14 days (11 games).
Not that Ichiro would mind that pressure as long as he’s playing on a winning ball club.
Reportedly, Ichiro approached the Mariners front office and requested a trade weeks ago. During the process, the M’s did contact teams about Ichiro’s availability and it is uncertain if the Reds were on Ichiro’s “list”. He does hold 10/5 rights to veto any deal.
“We talked to several clubs, all of which Ichiro approved and authorized me to talk to. … I only talked to the teams he asked me to talk with.”
– Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (via The Seattle Times)
We will most likely never know if the Reds were on that list. And if the Reds were on that list, it’s hard to imagine that the Reds, if they were interested in Ichiro, couldn’t find a potentially package better than what the M’s received from the Yankees.
The Mariners received a pair of 25-year-old righties that were both selected in the 10th round of the 2008 draft. Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell in the deal. Since the beginning of 2011, Farquhar has been traded twice and selected off waivers on two other occasions. Mitchell has shown some promise in the minors. Take that however you will.
The Mariners also sent cash to the Yankees to cover $4.5MM of the remaining $6.7MM on Ichiro’s 2012 contract. That leaves the Pinstripes to cover only about $2.2MM.
Taking what the M’s got from New York (you could look at it as the Mariners owe them a favor considering how the whole Michael Pineda thing worked out), a better deal with just as promising, if not more promising arms, could have gone the M’s way. Considering the overall look of this deal, I have to think that just maybe the Reds were not in on this. Even though we hear that Louisville does not have pitching depth that is major league ready, I don’t believe the M’s got guys that are either.
You also have to wonder about defensive position. Ichiro has dazzled with his glove during his 12-year MLB career. He plays right field, but he has played some center, but not since 2008. The Reds have a right fielder and, as I said in my post from earlier today, I cannot honestly see Jay Bruce having to make a position switch.
This all being what it is, I’m not so sure Ichiro, as great as his first ten years were, would be an “ideal fit” for the Reds. And I am a huge Ichiro fan.
Sometimes, we get so enamored with a name (i.e.: Shane Victorino) that we forget to take a few moments to step back and view the picture at every level.