According to a baseball source who has been briefed on the negotiations, the Yankees and Ichiro likely will finalize a deal Friday that will pay the outfielder between $12 million and $13 million over two years and will keep him in pinstripes until his 41st birthday.
The source added that Suzuki also was being courted by two other teams, both of which were offering more money than the Yankees. One of the teams was said to be the Philadelphia Phillies, who were offering $14 million for two years, according to the source. The identity of the other team is unknown, but the source said its offer was $15 million for two years.
"Ichiro really enjoyed playing in New York last year," the source said. "And he really wanted to come back."
The source stressed that the negotiations were not complete, and Ichiro, who turned 39 on Oct. 22, needs to pass a physical before the deal becomes official.
Neither Yankees general manager Brian Cashman nor Ichiro's agent, Tony Attanasio, could be reached for comment Thursday night. But according to the source, Attanasio used the recent deals signed by Jonny Gomes ($10 million for two years from the Boston Red Sox) and Shane Victorino ($39 million for three years from Boston) as guidelines for what he would accept from the Yankees.
"Tony told the Yankees Ichiro wanted to play for them and asked just that the Yankees be fair with him," the source said.
The Yankees acquired Ichiro from the Seattle Mariners just before the July 31 trade deadline for minor-league pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Although Ichiro -- who has 2,606 hits and a .322 career batting average in 12 major-league seasons -- struggled last year with Seattle, batting just .261 with a .288 on-base percentage, he seemed rejuvenated after joining the Yankees. In 67 games for New York, he batted .322 with a .388 OBP and 14 stolen bases, adding a dimension to the team's offense that was lacking when outfielder Brett Gardner was lost for most of the season with an elbow injury.
Ichiro is expected to replace Nick Swisher, who is a free agent and is not expected to return to New York, in right field, although he also can play center in the event the Yankees trade Curtis Granderson.
Ichiro won a Gold Glove for his outfield play in each of his first 10 big league seasons, all with the Mariners.