The New York Yankees recently spent some time on the west coast and one of their stops included a visit to Safeco Field where they were set to face off against the Seattle Mariners for a three game series from July 23rd through the 25th. As expected Bronx Bombers came away with a series victory, but what was unexpected was that long time Seattle Mariners icon Ichiro Suzukiwas on the Yankees team plane with Jeter and company when the series was over.
Such is the business of baseball and with a quick negotiation the face of the Mariners franchise for over a decade was sent packing. In exchange for the 38-year old right fielder the Mariners received two minor league pitchers and also took a massive step in the continued reshaping of their major league roster.
The prospects that Seattle acquired in the deal were far from household names, but both have potential to make solid contributions to the bullpen. A few years ago that surely wouldn’t have been enough of a return for Ichiro, but the 2012 version of the Japanese super-star isn’t the one we all remember.
D.J. Mitchell, 25, is a right-handed pitcher who the Yankees drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 draft out of Clemson. The 6’0, 160 lb Mitchell works with a four pitch mix. He has a sinking fastball which profiles as his best pitch and he can dial his four seam fastball up to 93 mph. He also has a curveball that flashes some upside while his change-up lags behind his other offerings. The lack of a true off-speed pitch makes me think that Mitchell will eventually head to the bullpen. His ceiling is that of a back end starter but realistically he looks like a middle reliever who could serve as an emergency spot starter at best.
Danny Farquhar, 25, is a right-handed pitcher who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 2008 draft. At this point it is pretty clear that he is destined for a middle relief role. He lacks the typical velocity required to be a back-end reliever but his ablility to pitch from a multitude of different arm slots does makes him a bit more difficult for batters pick-up and to hit. Through five seasons Farquhar has a very strong K/9 ratio of 9.2. However, while the variation of arm slots has been an excellent tool for striking out batters it has also been the source of his general lack of control. Through five minor league seasons he has a rather unacceptable 4.1 BB/9 ratio. Interestingly, the 2012 season has already seen Farquhar in four uniforms and if you called this year a whirlwind you would be understating things more than a little. Farquhar started the season as a member of the Blue Jays, then the Athletics claimed him off waivers only to waive him and allow the Yankees to claim him and trade him to Seattle.
In the end the departure of Ichiro was a a necessary evil for the Mariners organization as the weight of his impending free agency – not to mention his lack of production – was a burden they needed to unload. He will certainly go down as one of the greatest Mariners in the franchise’s history and he will always be a beloved figure in the city of Seattle. But father time has been catching up to him. His skills are rapidly eroding and he doesn’t merit the kind of money Seattle would have felt the pressure to pay him if they tried to resign him in the offseason. Additionally, the Mariners need to give their younger outfielders an opportunity to prove themselves and the departure of Ichiro opens up some much needed space to see what some of their young guys, like Trayvon Robinson and Carlos Peguero among others, can do.
Lastly, while both Mitchell and Farquhar lack the sort of impact talent to make a huge splash they have to potential to be steady contributors and sometimes that’s good enough to make a deal. Especially when you’re unloading a player who is well past his prime. The Yankees didn’t give up anything of real significance in the deal, but neither did Seattle. Sure New York got the name but I don’t think anyone is bragging about the 63 OPS+ (100 is average) that Ichiro has contributed in his first 10 games with his new team.