Future Hall Of Fame Outfielder May Not Fit, But Proved In 2014 He Still Has Value


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When it comes to their position players, the Yankees have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. One logical choice to free up a roster spot would be to let soon-to-be 41-year-old free agent Ichiro Suzuki walk.

But will they?

It will be interesting to see if the front office still believes the future Hall of Famer has something to offer as he continues his pursuit of 3,000 hits in the majors.

For his part, when the Bombers’ disappointing season ended at Fenway Park in Boston on Sunday, Ichiro sounded like someone who expects to play next season, regardless if it’s with the Yankees or not.

“Obviously, there are a lot of things that go on that even the fans or media can’t see that go on inside,” said Ichiro, who batted .284 in 143 games this season. “But what I can say is the experiences I had this year … are gonna help me in the future.”

The future. For Ichiro that’s a place where he finds a way to get 156 more hits so that he reaches the career benchmark that defines a major league hitter, even if most everyone already knows he’s one of the greatest to ever pick up a bat. Suzuki, who has 10 200-hit seasons in the majors, including a record 262-hit campaign back in 2004, had 1,278 hits over nine seasons in Japan before joining the Seattle Mariners in 2001.

He has since batted .317, appeared in 10 All-Star Games and is generally viewed as one of the classiest players in the game.

But how can he help the Yankees going forward? Here’s a team that struggled mightily in the runs scored department in 2014 and Suzuki drove in just 22 in 385 plate appearances. While he could serve a purpose as a bench player, spot starter and ideal defensive replacement, it’s hard to know at this point what the Yankees are thinking.

Ichiro sounded like someone who still thinks he can play every day.

“I don’t know where I’m going to be, but as a player, you want to play,” he said. “You want to be in that position. If you don’t feel that way, I don’t know how you play the game.”

As for getting to 3,000 hits, it’s pretty clear what Ichiro is thinking.

“Obviously, you want to get there, but that’s not why you play the game and that’s not why I’m gonna play the game,” Suzuki said, adding when asked how he feels physically, “great.”

The Yankees have to figure out who will take over at shortstop now that Derek Jeter has retired, and will have to find a way to generate more offense in support of what again figures to be a very good pitching that staff that got very little support in 2014.

The Yankees also have to make decisions on free agent infielders Chase Headley and Stephen Drew, and must prepare for the return of Alex Rodriguez from suspension.

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