This is the final post in this week's free agent case series, and to be perfectly honest, it's not one I even wanted to write. Ichiro Suzuki and Chris Young are not players I would bring back next season if I were calling the shots. I think the Yankees can do better than them in the 4th outfielder spot and I think they should make a strong effort to do so. Their injury problems the last 2 seasons have been magnified by a weak and powerless bench, and neither of these guys has been anything close to what they were at their peak. But 4th outfielder is a position of great importance again next season and I think these 2 will get at least slight consideration for a new deal. For that, they'll get some slight consideration here and will be lumped together into a single post.
Case For Ichiro:
- Hits for Average- Hit .284 in 385 PA this past season; has hit .281 in 1,180 PA as a Yankee; .317 career hitter in 14 MLB seasons. It's not the batting title-winning average of his prime, but Ichiro can still put the bat on the ball and turn it into base hits. That's better than nothing.
- Speed Still A Factor- Stole 15 bases in 18 attempts in 2014 and rated positively as a defensive outfielder with +1 DRS at age 40. Again, not what he did in his prime, but Ichiro's speed remains valuable on offense and defense.
Case Against Ichiro:
- .281/.316/.364- That's Ichiro's batting line as a Yankee. The rest doesn't look as good as the average and it looked even worse this year when he hit .284/.324/.340. There is absolutely zero power left in Ichiro's bat and he doesn't walk nearly enough to make the most out of his speed on the basepaths.
Case For Chris Young:
- All The Tools a Good 4th Outfielder Needs- Power? Check. .193 career ISO and double digit HR in 8 straight seasons. Speed? Check. Has 3 20+ stolen base seasons and above-average career defensive ratings. Flexibility? Check. Played all 3 outfield positions in each of the last 2 seasons.
Case Against Chris Young:
- September Sample Size Mirage- Young is only on people's minds because he hit .282/.354/.521 with 3 HR and 10 RBI in 23 games as a Yankee. All of that production came in September, when the pitching talent was watered down by roster expansion, and was the greatest SSS performance from Young in his entire career. It's not representative of what he's ever done or what he should be expected to do moving forward.
It simply comes down to these guys being varying degrees of not good. Ichiro is not as good an offensive player as he used to be. There's little value to be generated by a decent batting average when it doesn't lead to runs, and with the concerns about Carlos Beltran's health, the Yankees need a player with more power if that player ends up getting forced into regular duty.
Young might not be good anymore period. As great as his short stint with the Yankees was, his longer stretch with the Mets earlier in the year was equally awful. He hit .205/.283/.346 and was a negative fWAR player in 88 games with them and that's after hitting .200/.280/.379 in 111 games with Oakland in 2013. Young isn't too far away from his best days of 2010 and 2011, but he's fallen off dramatically since then and was released mid-season and not picked up by anybody else before the Yankees claimed him. Does that sound like somebody the Yankees need to be offering guaranteed millions to?
Ichiro and Young both offered positive contributions in different ways this season, but as individual players they don't match up with what the Yankees really need or should be looking for from their next 4th outfielder. If there was a way to mutate them into 1 player, that player could be helpful. Since there isn't, the smart move would be to pass on these 2 and look elsewhere for an upgrade.