Ichiro, Yanks finalizing two-year deal

By Bryan Hoch / 12/14/12 7:50 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Ichiro Suzuki and the Yankees are continuing to finalize the terms of a new contract that will keep the 39-year-old veteran in pinstripes next season.
The deal will likely be a two-year contract, and could guarantee the outfielder between $12 million and $13 million, according to The Associated Press. The terms could be agreed upon as soon as Friday.
Acquired by the Yankees on July 22 from the Mariners, Ichiro said often how much he enjoyed his transition to a more experienced roster after feeling that he no longer fit in with a much younger Seattle team.
His performance jumped with the move to New York: Ichiro batted .322 with five homers, 27 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 67 games for the Yanks, providing a late-season spark to help the club win the American League East title.
Overall last season, Ichiro batted .283 with nine homers, 55 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 162 games.
Though the Yankees have seemed reluctant to offer multiyear contracts this offseason, they reportedly were forced to go to two years with Ichiro because two National League teams -- believed to be the Giants and Phillies -- were also willing to guarantee a second year.
It appears that Ichiro and his agent, Tony Attanasio, were willing to work within the Yanks' budgetary constraints, accepting a slightly smaller deal to stay in New York.
Expected to replace Nick Swisher in right field, Ichiro will join two other left-handed hitters, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, in New York's outfield.
That suggests that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman's next move will be to pursue a right-handed bat for their outfield. The Yanks have shown some interest in Scott Hairston, a free agent who has also been negotiating to return to the Mets.
A two-year agreement also presents a chance that Ichiro, who owns 2,606 Major League hits since arriving from Japan in 2001, could reach the 3,000 hits mark as a Yankee.
Only Derek Jeter has ever logged his 3,000th hit in pinstripes, though Alex Rodriguez enters the 2013 season just 99 hits away from the milestone. A .322 career hitter in the Majors, Ichiro collected 178 hits this year, his lowest total in a big league season.