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Sources: Ichiro heading back to Yanks
The Yankees and Ichiro were close to an agreement Wednesday, negotiating the final details of a free-agent contract, according to major league sources.
On Friday the sides were near a $13 million, two-year contract, according to an Associated Press source.
The sides still had to finalize language and the deal will be subject to a physical.
The Yankees then would need a right-handed complement, presuming they do not trade Granderson, an idea the team is exploring, sources said.
The return of Ichiro would not preclude the Yankees from re-signing free agent Raul Ibanez, another left-handed hitter who likely would get most of his at-bats as a DH.
A one-year contract for Ichiro would fall in line with the free-agent deals that the Yankees have awarded this offseason to right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, lefty Andy Pettitte, closer Mariano Rivera and third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
The Yankees are trying to maintain payroll flexibility as they seek to get under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold for ’14 – a move that would save them tens of millions under the new labor agreement.
Ichiro joined the Yankees last July 23 in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. The move helped revive him offensively: After batting .261 with a .642 OPS in 95 games with the Mariners, he batted .322 with a .794 OPS in 67 games with the Yankees.