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Big League Stew

Ichiro returns to Yankees on two-year deal

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(AP)

A slow Wednesday in the baseball news department picked up a little steam in the late afternoon hours as a couple meaningful transactions were finalized.

Despite some public posturing between general manager Brian Cashman and agent Tony Attansasio right before the winter meetings, the New York Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki were able to come to terms on a new two-year, $13 million contract that could guarantee the 39-year-old outfielder retires in pinstripes.

It should also give him enough time to seriously pursue 3,000 hits in a Major League Baseball uniform. He'll enter the season 394 hits shy, which means he'll need to average 197 hits over the two seasons to get there. For a guy that averaged 224 hits over his first ten seasons — never once collecting less than 206 — it seems like a gimme, but Ichiro has shown significant signs of slowing down over the past two seasons averaging only 181.

As many people are suggesting, playing two full seasons in the more hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium should help. Hitting lead-off, as he's expected to do, will also help in a loaded Yankees lineups that figures to turn over much more frequently than Seattle's has since 2010. He may also get some starts at designated hitter, in addition to playing regularly in right field, which should help keep fresh.

All things considered, it sets up as pretty close to the best possible situation for Ichiro. It's not a bad deal for the Yankees, either, and now it'll be interesting to see if Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson remain the guys penciled in with him in the outfield, or if one gets dealt in the coming weeks.

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