July 23 (Bloomberg) — The New York Yankees acquired two-time batting champion Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners, adding a regular left fielder and potential leadoff hitter with Brett Gardner set to undergo elbow surgery.
The 38-year-old Ichiro will play right field in the absence of the injured Nick Swisher and bat eighth for the Yankees against the Mariners in Seattle tonight.
Ichiro said he requested a trade following the All-Star break. He goes from a team that is in last place in the American League West division to the team with the best record in Major League Baseball.
“I had a strong sense that I’d like to be stimulated by changing my environment,” Ichiro said through an interpreter at a news conference. “I felt I shouldn’t remain on a team that had so many young players. I’m grateful to the Mariners for accepting my decision.”
The Yankees sent pitching prospects D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar to the Mariners for Ichiro and an undisclosed amount of cash, New York said today in a statement.
With Gardner on the disabled list, the Yankees have primarily used Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez in left field this season, while Dewayne Wise, Darnell McDonald and Jayson Nix are among those who also have seen time at the position.
Ichiro has won 10 Gold Glove awards for his defense since joining the Mariners in 2001, when he became the first Japanese- born non-pitcher in major league history.
“I’ve had people say to me, ‘You have the best record, you’re in first place, you’ve played extremely well, how exactly do you miss Gardy?” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Gardner. “Well, he’s the one guy who creates and causes havoc on our club that we haven’t had. There are days that you miss that. Sometimes you need to create a run.”
The Yankees traveled to Seattle after losing four straight games in Oakland by one run. It’s their longest losing streak of the season.
Ichiro is hitting .261 for the Mariners this year, his lowest batting average in 12 Major League Baseball seasons and 61 points below his career average of .322. He won American League batting titles in 2001 and 2004, and has led or been tied for the major league lead in hits seven times.
“We feel that he brings a speed element, a tremendous hitter,” said Girardi, adding that Ichiro will primarily play left field. “That speed element has been missing after Gardy went down. This is a big day for us.”
Ichiro is in the final season of a five-year, $90 million contract and the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network reported that the team will pay him $2.25 million for the remainder of the 2012 season.
‘A contending team’
“He deserves a chance to play for a contending team before the end of his magnificent career,” Mariners Chief Executive Officer Howard Lincoln said at a televised news conference in Seattle. “The Mariners should not stand in his way.”
In 95 games for the Mariners this year, Ichiro has four home runs, while scoring 49 runs, driving in 28 runs and stealing 15 bases. In 2011, Ichiro’s .272 batting average marked his first major league season below .300.
Since his debut in 2001, when he won the AL Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards, Ichiro has 330 more hits than any other major league player.