(Ichiro's everyday days could be coming to an end. Courtesy of Reuters)
With Curtis Granderson getting closer to returning - a report earlier today by Chad Jennings had him now taking indoor BP - the Yankees are approaching the point where they'll have a lot of decisions to make with respect to their outfield construction. Where will Curtis play in the outfield? Where will Brett Gardner play in the outfield? Who's getting bumped to the bench? Who's getting sent down to Triple-A/DFA'd/outright released? In that same post, Jennings mentioned (correctly) that it's still a bit premature to bring up some of these ideas now, particularly the one about how right field will be settled since it's an unspoken given that C-Grand and Gardner will be in center and left. But based on what we've seen so far, the most logical choice, whether they like it or not, might be a Vernon Wells/Ichiro Suzuki platoon.
Both Wells and Ichiro are on the books for this year and next, so it's highly unlikely that either of them is going to be completely kicked to the curb. Ben Francisco has shown absolutely nothing so far, and Brennan Boesch, despite Joe's best efforts to find a spot for him, hasn't shined at the plate or in the field in his limited opportunities. Despite their own varying levels of production, both Wells and Ichiro appear to have legs up on their closest 25-man competition for roster safety and playing time.
The variation in production, in my eyes at least, is the number one reason to use these two as a platoon. Ichiro has not gotten off to a good start, his offensive output defined by a lot of weak contact, but that production shouldn't hold this low forever. Wells has been very good so far, better than advertised, but based on his recent history there does exist the very real possibility of regression. With the lineup still not being anywhere near complete when C-Grand comes back, it makes sense to establish a set platoon position and rotate both Ichiro and Wells through in an effort to maximize their respective production potentials. As older players, it also couldn't hurt to make sure they're getting regular rest. Neither Wells nor Ichiro has a history of being an injury risk, but we've already seen one new veteran get bit by the bug recently.
We're still weeks away from this becoming a hot issue, so nothing is set in stone yet and nothing should be. Chances are, though, that the Yankees envisioned both Ichiro and Wells as platoon-type outfielders in the first place. When the opportunity finally presents itself to put them both in that role, the Yankees would be wise to seize it.