It's no secret that I'm not on the "Yankees should bring back Ichiro" bandwagon. I think he's a fraction of the player he used to be in his prime; I think the .322/.340/.454 tripleslash he put up in a third of a season's worth of plate appearances with the Yankees is not nearly as true an indicator of his current talent level as the results he put up in the previous season and two-thirds worth; and I think if they made slightly more of an effort than they have so far, the Yankees could find a much better all-around option for a starting right fielder next season. I also think the Yankees are pretty set in their way for how they're going about this offseason and I think Ichiro's performance in a Yankee uniform this season did enough to put him on their radar for 2013. And the more time that passes this offseason, the more I think Ichiro becomes a fit for what the Yankees are looking for.
The Yankees could use more players in their lineup that can make a lot of contact and don't strike out a lot. Ichiro makes a lot of contact and doesn't strike out a lot. They could use a little more flexibility in their offensive strategy and solid defense in their outfield. Ichiro can still steal bases and take the extra base with his speed and is still an above-average defensive outfielder. They appear to be all but locked in to a plan of only signing an outfielder to a 1-year contract to help control costs heading into 2014. Ichiro is reportedly willing to wait and not pursue options with other teams for the chance to come back and play in New York because he enjoyed it so much.
The reality is that Ichiro is not the player he once was. The reality is that he's probably not an everyday player anymore and would be best used as a 4th OF or part of a L/R platoon, a tactic that I would prefer the Yankees not employ for a position other than DH. But the reality is also that he and the Yankees match up in more ways than they don't, and the longer they stay on the sidelines when it comes to other potential right field options for next season the greater the chances become that Ichiro in right in 2013 will be reality as well.
2014 Yankees ZiPS Projections
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