Fresh off the signings of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees have been rumored to be open to trading an outfielder. It appears general manager Brian Cashman would prefer to ship off Ichiro Suzuki over Brett Gardner, reports Chad Jennings of The Journal News.
Ichiro's last three years do not inspire much confidence that New York would receive a large return for him. Since 2010, he has hit just .284/.320/.366 with continually declining defense. The 2013 season, when Ichiro played in 155 games for the Yankees, was the worst year at the plate in his career. He set career lows in batting average (.262), OBP (.297) and stolen bases (20).
Ichiro, 40, is owed another $6.5 million for the 2014 season, the last of a two-year deal. The Yankees may have to eat some of that contract if they are able to find a trade partner. It's not immediately clear who may be interested in Ichiro, though the return is not likely to be great. To acquire him from the Mariners in 2012, New York traded away a middle reliever in Danny Farquhar and pitching prospect D.J. Mitchell.
The Yankees would certainly be able to get more in a deal for Brett Gardner, but for now appear inclined to keep him. The team is not actively seeking to trade their 2013 center fielder, but is willing to listen to offers. A very good defensive player, Gardner hit .273/.344/.416 with 24 stolen bases. He has a career 733 OPS and has led the league in steals once, but has just one year of team control remaining. It's plausible the team could acquire a starting pitcher for Gardner, though it would be more of a back-end-of-the-rotation type.
After signing Ellsbury and Beltran, both Ichiro and Gardner are without starting spots. Ellsbury will take over in center field, with Beltran in right and 2013 mid-season trade acquisition Alfonso Soriano sticking around in left. The team also has Vernon Wells on the roster, creating a glut of outfielders. With no full-time DH, the Yankees can use a rotation of outfielders to give each some rest, but they could allocate their resources better by trading one for another useful piece.