Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees finalize deal

Updated: December 20, 2012, 12:11 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

The New York Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki put the final touches on a deal that will keep the 39-year-old outfielder in pinstripes for the next two seasons.

The contract is reportedly worth $12 million for two years, and sources told ESPNNewYork.com last week that Ichiro turned down more money from at least two other clubs to remain with the Yankees. With the loss of Nick Swisher to free agency, Suzuki is expected to be the team's starting right fielder in 2013.

"The Yankees are the kind of team that I always envisioned being a part of," Suzuki said in a statement released by the club. "Everyone in the world of competition has a strong desire to win, but the Yankees also have an atmosphere where losing is not an option. These two observations may sound similar, but I believe it is a rarity to find both coexisting in the same organization.''

Suzuki was acquired by the Yankees from Seattle on July 23 in a trade for minor-league pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. A career .322 hitter with 2,606 hits in 12 major-league seasons, Suzuki went 73 for 227 (.322) in 67 games as a Yankee and stole 14 bases.

Suzuki's speed and ability to get on base added a dimension to the Yankees' offense that had been missing after regular left fielder Brett Gardner was lost to an elbow injury just nine games into the 2012 season. And his work ethic, quirky personality and unique style of dress made him a popular figure in their clubhouse.

Despite his age, the Yankees are counting on Ichiro to play every day.

"I believe the Yankees organization appreciates that there is a difference between a 39 year old who has played relying only on talent, and a 39 year old who has prepared, practiced, and thought thoroughly through many experiences for their craft,'' he said in the statement. "I am very thankful, and I will do my best to deliver on their expectations."

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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