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Ichiro To Explore Free Agency?

According to a source of Ken Davidoff of Newsday, Ichiro Suzuki will explore free agency this winter.  He will be "selective," which seems to rule out lousy non-Mariner clubs.  The source said that Ichiro would've signed with the Ms last winter had they made a solid offer.  They've yet to do so.

As Davidoff mentions, Ichiro is one of the Big Three center fielders who may be available after the season.  The other two are Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones.  How do they compare?

Their ages for the 2008 season: Jones will be 31, Hunter 32, and Ichiro 34.  Looking at offense, any team would clearly prefer Jones.  He should remain a force into the forseeable future, posting .350 OBPs and .500+ SLGs.  While more reliant on batting average than walks, Ichiro can match that OBP.  Of course, he won't slug much over .400.  Hunter brings a lower OBP but more power than Ichiro, and probably has an edge offensively.

Most fielding experts would place Jones well above Hunter in terms of defense, but it's unclear where to rank Ichiro at this point.  I'm sure any team considering a long-term offer to Ichiro is scouting his center field defense carefully and applying advanced grading systems.

Ichiro has the biggest fan appeal, though Jones may be a draw in his own right.  In terms of simply the most desirable player over the next four or five seasons, I rank them Jones, Hunter, and Ichiro.  I know power isn't Ichiro's game and all that, but he still needs to be compared to Jones and Hunter in that regard.  We haven't seen many signs of it, but it's possible Hunter adds some more walks to his game as he ages.  We've seen that with Jones.

The second tier contains Mike Cameron, Corey Patterson, and Eric Byrnes.  Cameron is the best of those despite being the oldest.  However, he may be off the market within a couple of weeks.  Click here to take a look at the rest of the free agent CFs.   

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Comments

Being a Jays fan, I'd hate to see it, but I think there is a really good chance Ichiro goes to Boston. It just seems like a natural fit, especially with Dice-K there. Marketing wise, and the competitiveness of the Sox year in and year out should draw Ichiro there. *knock on wood* that it doesnt happen that way.

"Most fielding experts would place Jones well above Hunter in terms of defense, but it's unclear where to rank Ichiro at this point."

Oh really? First I've heard of it. Is that personal opinion or is there something to back that up? Usually I hear that it's pretty much a toss-up as to which one of them is better in the outfield. No doubt that Jones is more of a force at the plate but Hunter more than holds his own in the field.

I think it is widely accepted that Jones is the best defensive center fielder in baseball, if not all time. I've never heard anyone argue that Hunter is as good or better than Jones.
Bitter Twins fan, perhaps?

Bitter? Far from it.

You're right, bitter is the wrong word. Biased Twins fan is more accurate.

i wouldn't be surprised in the least if ichiro ended up with the white sox. with buehrle and dye almost certainly going, there should be some money to burn.
they have a ton of pitching prospects who can fill the 5th starter slot, sweeney can step in for dye in right field. i picture the extra money going towards a quality CF/leadoff man. Ichiro fits the need.
Also, it's no secret the White Sox don't like giving out long term deals (mostly to pitchers, but also to players), and being 34 I can't see Ichiro demanding the same years as the other guys will.

More like someone who actually watches them play. I'm not saying Hunter is even better than Jones, just that they're fairly even. Hell, even ESPN compares Hunter pretty favorably with Jones and them paying attention to a Minnesota team outside of the playoffs is just about unheard of.

I like how you can't post without personal attacks though. Very nice - it's always easier to attack the messenger than the message.

i agree with palehose. kenny williams has said on the local radio station that while money was thrown around this offseason on mediocre talent, the smart money will wait til "next off-season" and how the players available are "something special." personally im assuming he means the CF class (jones and ichiro, not so much hunter) and maybe an outside shot at zambrano since he said in the papers he wouldnt mind playing for ozzie. with iguchi being a free agent with buehrle and dye, that would be a no brainer to help attract ichiro and to make iguchi wanna stay. pods is on the downslope, and erstad should be on the bench, not a starter. i gotta feeling KW will splash some money around next offseason. by adding ichiro, a big name right handed bat (short stop? LF?) and maybe a starter to spell the aging contreras.

2006:

Beltran
ZR - .897
RF - 2.81

Jones
ZR - .846
RF - 2.61

Hunter
ZR - .870
RF - 2.56

Beltran > Hunter > Jones

Use FRAR from 2006

Hunter: 143 G, +20
Jones: 153 G, +14
Beltran: 135 G, +31
Ichiro: 39 G, +10

The fact that Ichiro was +10 in just 39 games speaks to his defensive ability.

Andruw Jones WAS a great defensive CF a few years ago, but Willie Mays is still the greatest defensive CF of all time.

Jones: 1,497 G, +279 (.19/G)
Mays: 2,831 G, +579 (.21/G)

Statement was based on panel of experts in Bill James Handbook.

What about Milton Bradley?

Let me just say that the whole power factor, in my opinion, can be ignored when you instead look at what the teams are who will need a CF or RF and if they need a lead off or middle of the line-up guy. I refuse to agree that Hunter has the edge to Ichiro offensively.

For his lowest in each category/highest(average in past 3 years), Ichiro had 206/262(231) hits, 101/127(107) runs, 275/320(302) TB, 71/53(67) K's, and 33/56(38) steals. I know everyone on this site is in love with OBP, his career OBP is .376.

Hunter (only considering seasons with 135 games of more)? 98/162(132) hits, 79/89(76) runs, 146/294(229) TB, 125/72(105)K's, and 23/31(23)HR's. Lifetime OBP = .323

Who would I rather have as far as a hitter only? Give me Ichiro and his 11 HR's a year any day, he still averaged 59 RBI vs. Hunter's 78.

Oh, and I am a Cubs fan but I'm gonna back up Deviation, Hunter is a fantastic fielder.

I have to say the same....I think right now, Hunter is every bit as good as Jones defensively.

The difference is that Jones plays a very shallow CF...Hunter a deeper one. That is why you see Jones making better plays on balls hit between him and the batter, and Hunter at or over the wall. Jones is known for playing one of the most shallow CF.

And who the hell said Jones is the best of all time? I honestly think that Edmonds, for the last 5 years was as good as Jones. No one has made better plays than Edmonds has...he has at least 3 of the best catches for a CF of all time, I guarentee it. I am a Cubs fan who can't stand the Cards...but I can respect some amazing baseball, and Edmonds has done things I have never seen before.

I may get blasted for that opinion....but seriously, the guy is very under rated.

Firstly, Ichiro could very well be a target of the White Sox this offseason. I expect Buehrle and Pods to walk after this year. But, I expect Iguchi and Dye to stay. If they could add Suzuki and trade Crede for something special, this team could be awesome.

Secondly,as a White Sox fan I've watched Hunter for years and he was great defensively. Maybe he's lost a bit now - I don't know. But, for years he was about as good as I've seen. And, I've been hearing that Jones has lost some speed the last few years.

Don't be surprised if Hunter gets a big contract somewhere, also.

I can't put Bradley in that conversation until he shows he can play 130 games with some consistency. Otherwise is a solid but part-time player.

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