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Yankees, Ichiro Suzuki reportedly closing in on one-year deal

Ichiro Suzuki looks on from the dugout during

Ichiro Suzuki looks on from the dugout during a game against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 14, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki could be reunited by the end of the week.

The two sides are nearing completion of a one-year deal, according to several reports published Monday, which would give the Yankees a stopgap replacement for free agent Nick Swisher.

Ichiro appeared rejuvenated after his midseason trade from the Mariners, hitting .322 in 67 games and making a smooth transition into a Yankees clubhouse filled with fellow veterans.

After making his first postseason appearance since 2001 -- he hit .217 in the ALDS and .353 in the ALCS -- the 39-year-old made no secret about enjoying his time in New York, opening the door for a potential return.

Ichiro would give the Yankees three lefthanded-hitting outfielders, increasing the odds that general manager Brian Cashman will add a righthanded-hitting outfielder for balance.

While the Yankees appear closer to addressing one need, they might have to wait a bit longer to deal with another. The agent for Kevin Youkilis said Monday that the former Red Sox mainstay still is weighing his options.

The Yankees, in need of a third baseman to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez, offered Youkilis a one-year, $12-million contract at last week's winter meetings.

"Certainly, the city is a major attraction,'' said agent Joe Bick, who noted that Youkilis' uncle owns an eatery in Manhattan. "He loves New York. But let's figure out what direction we're going in here before we get into all of that.''

The Indians reportedly have been involved in the bidding for Youkilis, who would have been reunited with longtime Red Sox manager Terry Francona. But Cleveland looks less likely to be a fit now that slugger Mark Reynolds reportedly has agreed to a free-agent deal.

Youkilis could find other suitors such as the Dodgers, who have emerged as the game's top spenders as the Yankees endure an uncharacteristic belt-tightening.

Bick said Youkilis' top priority is playing for a contender. "Kevin has said right from the start that he is interested in being on a team that he feels has a chance to win and win big,'' Bick said. "A competitive club is extremely important to him, given the fact that he's always been on one. It's what he knows.''

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