NEW YORK -- The Yankees are making progress toward a new contract with outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to multiple published reports.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney reported that Ichiro, 39, and the Yanks are expected to come to an agreement "within the next few days."
Ichiro's agent, Tony Attanasio, has said that Ichiro's first choice was to return to the Yankees, with whom he batted .322 with five home runs and 27 RBIs in 67 games after being acquired from the Mariners on July 23.
A .322 hitter in the big leagues and the owner of 2,606 Major League hits, plus 1,278 more in Japan, Ichiro was reportedly irked by a lack of attention from the Yankees early in the free-agent process when the club was prioritizing starting pitching.
But having signed pitchers Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera for a combined $37 million in one-year deals, the Yanks began to turn their attention to offense at the Winter Meetings and held meetings with Ichiro's camp, among others.
Ichiro was in the final season of a five-year, $90 million deal when he was acquired by the Yankees, earning $17 million in 2012. The Mariners included cash considerations in the trade for pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
If Ichiro returns, the Yankees will have an all left-handed-hitting outfield, with Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson in place. General manager Brian Cashman said that if that happens, a right-handed bat in the role that Andruw Jones filled in 2011-12 will become a priority.
The Yanks are also waiting on a response from free-agent infielder Kevin Youkilis, who is weighing a one-year, $12 million contract offer from the club.