The Marlins have had internal discussions about bringing Ichiro Suzuki back into the fold for the 2016 season, manager Dan Jennings told Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Jennings offered high praise for the 41-year-old Ichiro, calling him the “most prepared player” he’s been around and citing him as a good example for the club’s younger players.
From a purely offensive standpoint, Ichiro has hit well enough to remain a viable fourth outfielder. His overall production is about 10 percent below the league average due to a lack of power, but he’s hitting .289 with a .342 on-base percentage and a .338 slugging percentage.
In terms of defense and baserunning, however — two areas that were once arguably his greatest strengths — Ichiro has struggled. He’s 6-for-10 in stolen base attempts this year and rates out at one run below average on the basepaths, per Fangraphs. Both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved feel that Ichiro is overmatched even in the corners at this point of his career, as DRS has him at -7 runs total (all three outfield spots combined), while UZR is a somewhat more favorable -2.6 (though that’s -15.2 when pro-rated to 150 games).
The net result of his play to this point has been sub-replacement level per both rWAR and fWAR, although there are certainly some marketing considerations that have to be considered in regards to Ichiro as well. In addition to his international popularity, the future Hall of Famer will likely be chasing his 3,000th Major League hit in earnest next season. Currently 115 hits shy with 2,885 already in the books, Ichiro’s current pace would leave him with 2,949 hits in his career at season’s end. Even if he falls shy of that mark, he’ll almost certainly be within 80-100 hits of 3,000, barring some form of injury.
It’s not known to what extent Ichiro reciprocates the Marlins’ interest, although he spoke late in Spring Training about feeling an immediate sense of loyalty to the Marlins after their offseason interest in him at this late stage in his career.