The Seattle Mariners signed future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal on Wednesday. The deal is worth $750,000 and could increase to $2 Million from incentives.
The 44-year-old spent his first 11 seasons in the MLB playing for the Mariners, and his accomplishments during that time are nothing short of legendary. Ichiro put up one of the greatest rookie seasons baseball had ever seen in 2001 when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award and the American League MVP Award. Ichiro also won a pair of batting titles as well as being given 10 All-Star nods. Ichiro was then traded to the New York Yankees (of course) midway through the 2012 season.
Ichiro played in parts of three seasons with the Yankees before being sent down to Florida where he played in parts of three seasons with the Miami Marlins. Ichiro became a free agent this offseason after a $2 Million club option for 2018 was declined by the rebuilding Marlins.
Ichiro Suzuki came to America to play baseball in 2001 at the age of 27, giving him the latest start of any player to amass 3,000 hits in their career. To put the greatness of this feat into perspective, the second-latest start for a member of the 3,000-hit club was Wade Boggs, who debuted for the Boston Red Sox when he was 23.
Ichiro has put together one of the greatest Major League careers in history, in which he amassed 3,080 hits with a .312 batting average, 117 home runs, a .318 on-base percentage, and 59.6 WAR. Suzuki appeared in just 136 games last year and hit .255 with a .318 on-base percentage.
Ichiro, who is currently at the ripe age of 44, has stated very clearly that he wants to play Major League baseball until he is 50-year-old, and while that seems like a tall order, Suzuki has played MLB caliber baseball despite his age and may be able to keep it going for 6 more years.
“I didn’t think about any of this when I was 20, but gradually, the more I’ve played, this is something I’ve wanted,” Ichiro told reporters through an interpreter in September.
One reason Suzuki believes he will be able to remain a proficient big leaguer at such a seasoned age is his method of taking care of himself physically:
“Everybody is different, but I’ve seen a lot of players that when they get outside of their normal balance that their body can take, that’s when usually they get hurt. I’ve seen that a lot. So I think that’s a big point that I’ve been able to use my body, and obviously, it isn’t as if I haven’t been hurt. I’ve been hurt. But I still know what my body can take.”
The Seattle Mariners found themselves in need of a left fielder when their left fielder Ben Gamel was diagnosed with an oblique strain on Monday. The injury is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks, and this will give Ichiro, at the minimum, a temporary job.
The Mariners are in a bad spot for 2018, with the Houston Astros at the height of their power, and the Los Angeles Angels primed to run away with a Wild Card spot, and are not expected to do much. Ichiro will provide them with a solid bat, an above average glove, and most importantly, a fan favorite to get Mariners fans excited and give them a reason to go to the ballpark.
“The addition of Ichiro gives our team another versatile and athletic outfielder,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “His incredible work ethic, preparation and focus will enhance our environment in many ways. “He’s truly one of the great players in the history of the game and his unquestionable presence is a valuable addition, both on the field and in the clubhouse. We’re very glad to bring him back home.”
It will certainly be interesting (to say the least) to see where this path takes the future Hall of Famer. Will Ichiro continue to thrive at the Major League level? Will this be the end of the illustrious career of Ichiro Suzuki? Will he play till 50? Only time will tell.