Yankees said willing to pay part of Ichiro's salary if trade makes sense

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are said willing to offset a part of Ichiro Suzuki's $6.5-million salary in the right deal, sources said.

The Yankees would seek to receive a good prospect back but are said by rival executives amenable to paying down a portion of his $6.5 million salary under those circumstances.

Ichiro, 40, only fits as a backup outfielder with the Yankees, as their starting outfield is stacked with younger stars Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner. The Yankees also have Alfonso Soriano, who's looked very good this spring -- "better than before," one scout said -- so Ichiro, the international icon, would have an unusually limited role.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined comment about any possible trades talks, though there is no evidence anything's hot at the moment. That could change depending on team needs. the Tigers are one team that suffered a loss in the outfield when the lefty-hitting Andy Dirks was lost for a few months after having back surgery.

Cashman, however, said he had "no concern" about Ichiro taking to a role as a fourth outfielder after being such a worldwide star throughout his illustrious career. Cashman actually said Ichiro would make a fine fourth outfielder.

"He's a great defender and he can steal a base," Cashman said. "He provides us with options."

Ichiro hit .262 with seven home runs and a .639 OPS last year, and he's hitting .225 so far this spring.

Ownership gave Ichiro a two-year deal two winters ago likely in part because of his popularity and maketability.

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