Sources: Yankees ‘all over’ Ichiro
Ichiro Suzuki enjoyed playing for the New York Yankees so much, he likely will be back with them again.
The Yankees are showing strong interest in re-signing the free-agent outfielder, according to major league sources.
"They are all over him," one source says. "That (a deal with Ichiro) will happen."
Ichiro, 39, would join two other left-handed hitters in the Yankees’ outfield, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner.
The Yankees then would need a right-handed complement, presuming they do not trade Granderson, an idea the team is exploring, sources say.
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.
The team also is waiting to hear on its one-year, $12 million offer to Kevin Youkilis, a right-handed hitter who would play third base while Alex Rodriguez recovers from surgery on his left hip.
As for Josh Hamilton, the best free-agent hitter on the market, the Yankees are "kicking the tires," according to a source, but at this point do not appear to be a serious bidder.
The Yankees almost certainly would need to part with Granderson, either in a trade or in free agency at the end of the season, if they wanted to sign Hamilton and achieve their goal of getting under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold by 2014.
Ichiro likely would sign a one-year contract, falling in line with the other free agents the Yankees have re-signed this offseason: right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, lefty Andy Pettitte and closer Mariano Rivera.
Youkilis also would be a one-year deal, enabling the Yankees to maintain payroll flexibility as they seek to get under the threshold, which 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.