Revisiting the Ichiro trade

 Last July 23, the Seattle Mariners traded Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees, ending his 12-year stint with the club. Much of the talk in Seattle, at the time, was about the end of an era. Some were sad to see him go, but understood it was probably time. Others had been calling for such a move for years. In return, the M’s acquired right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. The Yankees received some cash to offset some of the remaining salary on Ichiro’s contract that concluded at the end of the season.

Ichiro had two solid months with the Yankees, and re-signed with the club over the offseason for two years and $13 million. Mitchell went on to struggle in Triple-A Tacoma last summer and made four unmemorable appearances in relief in the majors. Farquhar was dominant out of the pen in Tacoma after the trade and picked up where he left off this past spring. Mitchell has since been released.

Through the 2012 season, the Yankees win this deal, and it’s really not close. There’s no way to measure any value the Mariners may have gained by trading a player useless to them on the field and opening up playing time for younger players, and neither player the M’s received gave value to them last summer.

Even ignoring the salary discrepancy, that hasn’t been the case this season.

Through Tuesday, Ichiro is batting .264/.299/.350 and .285 WOBA in 140 games, and has an fWAR of 1.3. With Mitchell no longer part of the equation, Farquhar has had to carry the load on his own shoulders, and he’s handled that quite well.

The right-hander, who bounced around like a rubber pinball last year before the trade to Seattle, was called up to the majors in May to help solidify the club’s bullpen. Not only has he done his part there, he’s now the closer. With a 93-97 mph four-seamer, a cutter in the 88-92 mph range, a changeup he can show a left-hander and a curveball that may be his most important pitch — and a very good one — the 5-foot-9, 185-pound freak has saved 14 of 18 save chances. He’s struck out 13.14 batters per nine innings — nearly 36 percent of all batters faced — and has compiled a 1.8 fWAR, topping Ichiro’s by quite a large margin considering he spent the first six weeks of the big-league season NOT in the big leagues.

I don’t know that Farquhar will be the Mariners’ closer in 2014, but despite relievers being so volatile and downright unpredictable, the 26-year-old has a chance to contribute in high-leverage situations and create a rare trade victory for the Mariners under GM Jack Zduriencik.

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Jason A. Churchill

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