Ichiro Suzuki Rumors

Quick Hits: Marlins, Parra, Pederson

Ichiro Suzuki earned $400K in bonus money for reaching the 300-plate appearance threshold last week. As per the terms of Suzuki’s one-year, $2MM deal with the Marlins, Suzuki will earn an additional $400K for every 50 PA past 300, up to 600 plate appearances. Between Marcell Ozuna‘s demotion and injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, Suzuki has seen quite a bit more playing time than expected this season. With 332 PA after today’s action, Ichiro looks well on his way to adding at least another $800K to his 2015 salary, though he could lose some at-bats to younger outfielders once the rosters expand. Here’s more from around the league as we wrap up the weekend…

  • The Marlins are considering lowering the walls and bringing in the fences at Marlins Park, team president David Samson tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.  The stadium has finished at or near the bottom of the Park Factor home run rankings since opening in 2012.
  • The Reds placed Manny Parra on the DL today with bicep tendinitis in his left shoulder, the third time the southpaw has hit the DL this season.  John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter) thought that Parra would be a good trade candidate for the Reds, but that’s now an impossibility with him on the DL until at least September 4th.  Parra has been solid when healthy, posting a 3.24 ERA and 3-to-1 K/BB rate over 25 innings and pitching well against both left-handed and right-handed batters.  He drew some trade interest prior to the July 31 deadline though that buzz was scuttled by an earlier DL stint.
  • Joc Pederson has lost his job as the Dodgers‘ everyday center fielder, manager Don Mattingly told reporters (including ESPN’s Mark Saxon).  Enrique Hernandez will take over in center for the time being.  Pederson enjoyed a huge start to his rookie season but has been in a protracted slump since early June, hitting just .168/.328/.298 with six homers over his last 259 PA.
  • In July of this year, Mike Morse went from the Marlins to the Dodgers to the Pirates.  Morse admits that he was hoping for a return to the Giants, but he’s happy with how everything turned out, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes.  “If there was one place at the time I would have wanted to go, it was the Giants, not knowing that I’d get an opportunity here in Pittsburgh,” said Morse, who entered today with an .821 OPS over 25 PA as a Pirate. “Now that I see everything here, it’s awesome.”
  • Ian Kinsler wasn’t thrilled at the time of the deal that sent him from the Rangers to the Tigers, but he now tells Katie Strang of ESPN.com that the change of scenery worked out for the best.  “It’s a good place to be. There’s no hidden agenda,” Kinsler said. “The owner is all in, the [former] general manager, Dave Dombrowski, was all in. [Current] general manager Al [Avila] is the same way. There’s no difference between behind the scenes and in your face.”

NL East Notes: Amaro, Eickhoff, Ichiro

If Padres GM A.J. Preller is the “rock star GM,” then Phillies GM Ruben Amaro may be the “pincushion GM,” writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Amaro has received plenty of criticism and scorn for signing veterans to prohibitive contracts that exacerbated the club’s current woes. It’s now widely believed that the Phillies will not renew his contract at the end of the season. However, Amaro does deserve some credit for leveraging his few assets as fully as possible. In addition to the return for Hamels, players acquired by trading Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd, and Jimmy Rollins are now among the club’s top 20 prospects. The Phillies are also “battling” for the first overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft.

  • For over a year, Cole Hamels has been a popular subject of our posts. Starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff was the first of the five prospects to make his debut with the Phillies, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. As you’re aware, the Phillies finally traded Hamels along with Jake Diekman at the July deadline for five Rangers prospects and injured veteran Matt Harrison. Among prospect afficionados, the names of Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, and Jake Thompson were recognizable. Eickhoff may have flown under the radar, but his debut was encouraging. Over six innings, he shut out the Marlins with five hits, five strikeouts, and one walk. Eickhoff’s command and stuff suggest he may successfully support the rotation for years to come. Now Phillies fans will hope the name brand prospects also live up to the hype.
  • The Marlins are open to bringing Ichiro Suzuki back next season as he chases the 3,000 hit milestone, reports Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscription required). Ichiro, 41, was originally signed as a backup outfielder. With 111 games played, he’s appeared more often than any of the incumbent starters. He’s now 77 hits from the milestone. He won’t get there this season, but it could be within reach early next year. Given the publicity that comes with the achievement, other clubs may have interest in him.

Marlins Notes: Jennings, Barraclough, Ichiro

The Marlins’ Dan Jennings is one of many managers throughout the game who might not remain in their current jobs by the start of next season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Marlins have continued to struggle since replacing Mike Redmond with their GM, and Rosenthal notes that the Jennings is likely to head back to a front-office role. Fellow interim managers Pat Murphy (Padres) and Pete Mackanin (Phillies) will also likely be replaced, and other candidates to depart include Brad Ausmus (Tigers), Lloyd McClendon (Mariners) and others. Here are more notes on the Marlins.

  • Marlins righty Kyle Barraclough was surprised to be traded for Steve Cishek, and surprised that his new team promoted him to the big leagues last week, Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes. “It was just shocking to me,” says Barraclough. “I had read reports that the Cardinals were interested in Cishek, but I never thought it would be me that was going. They’ve got a good minor league system and I thought there’s tons of guys that they’re going to want except for me.” Barraclough had been struggling with Double-A Springfield in the Cardinals’ system, walking 20 batters in 24 2/3 innings there, but he thrived in a brief stint at Double-A Jacksonville, striking out nine batters and walking only one in four innings. He has yet to allow a run in three outings in the big leagues.
  • Counting his statistics in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki‘s single against the Cardinals yesterday gave him 4,191 career hits, tying Ty Cobb for second all-time. Ichiro now has 2,913 hits in the Majors, and with another season, he might reach 3,000. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro suggests the Marlins ought to retain Ichiro so that he can reach that milestone in a Marlins uniform. He isn’t likely to cost much, and he won’t be blocking anyone as he continues in a bench outfielder role. There is, of course, the matter of his declining performance — Ichiro will be 42 in October, and his 2015 batting average (.253) and slugging percentage (.308) are the lowest in his career since he came to the US.


AL West Notes: Hamilton, Kazmir, A’s, Ichiro

Josh Hamilton could return from the DL as early as Monday, and he could be coming back to the Rangers as a center fielder.  As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes, Hamilton played center in each of his last two minor league rehab games and he could displace the struggling Leonys Martin from the starting CF job.  Hamilton has only played 13 games in center since the start of the 2013 season, and while his advanced defensive metrics have varied from year to year, Hamilton has below-average numbers (-8.4 UZR/150 and -16 defensive runs saved) over his career as a center fielder.  Here’s more from around the AL West…

  • Several clubs have been scouting Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir recently but, for his part, the veteran doesn’t want to leave Oakland, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes.  “I would love to stay here. This is a group of guys I love being around. When you go up and down the team, the organizational staff, there’s a lot to like. I’d like to stay here,” Kazmir said.  Hickey notes that scouts from the Astros and Blue Jays were on hand Saturday as the 31-year-old pitched against the Royals.
  • Also from Hickey, he questions why the A’s have kept Max Muncy on the MLB roster when there’s no obvious route for him to find any playing time, a situation that doesn’t help the team or the player.  Muncy has only played in two of Oakland’s last 11 games, and Hickey wonders if this rustiness might’ve contributed to a key throwing error Muncy made during today’s 5-3 loss to the Royals.
  • Could the Mariners look to reunite with Ichiro SuzukiGeoff Baker of the Seattle Times opines that Ichiro could be a good fit for the team, as he would add some defensive help to the outfield and also add a contact bat with a bit of on-base ability to the struggling M’s lineup.  Baker doesn’t suggest the club should give up anything too valuable for Ichiro, as the Mariners are already on the fringes of the playoff race.

Marlins Have Had Internal Discussions About Re-Signing Ichiro

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.


Quick Hits: Hamilton, Ichiro, Kang

The Angels are reportedly discussing a potential resolution to their standoff with Josh Hamilton, and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register examines some possible forms that resolution could take. Releasing or trading Hamilton are two possibilities, but not ones Fletcher thinks would be very attractive to the Angels — if they released Hamilton, they’d have to eat the entire rest of his contract, except a prorated portion of the league minimum once he signed elsewhere. And it’s very unlikely trading Hamilton would result in much salary relief for the Angels, since he hasn’t played yet this season (and, presumably, since the Angels’ issues with him are so well known). They could also, of course, settle with Hamilton for some portion of his remaining contract. Fletcher also suggests the possibility, though, of the Angels simply bringing Hamilton back and letting him play for awhile, which would allow him to build value, or at least give the Angels clarity by having Hamilton demonstrate how much value he has. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Marlins were mostly unknown to Ichiro Suzuki before he signed with them, the veteran outfielder tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “I didn’t have that much information about the city or the team in general,” Ichiro says through an interpreter. “The Marlins are new, and they’re still trying to find that identity of what the Miami Marlins are all about.” Ichiro had played his whole big-league career in the American League, and at 41, he’s older than any MLB player except LaTroy Hawkins and Bartolo Colon. Kepner notes that Ichiro does not seem to intimidate the Marlins’ mostly young group of players, however.
  • Jung-ho Kang has played only sparingly since the start of the season, but the Pirates are not considering sending him to Triple-A, Clint Hurdle tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Before the season, the Bucs signed the 28-year-old Kang to a four-year deal with an option for a fifth, but there’s currently nowhere for him to start, and he has one hit in nine plate appearances so far. As a position player signed out of Korean pro baseball, Kang is in a unique position both on the field and off it, but it appears the Pirates will allow him to adjust at the big-league level rather than giving him regular playing time in the minors.

NL Notes: Ichiro, Melvin, Rollins

New Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki says being an older free agent is like being an older dog in a pet store, Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal writes. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones,” says Ichiro. “When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.” The 41-year-old Ichiro’s offseason training routine helps him stay relevant, Lefton writes. Ichiro works out at the Orix Buffaloes’ home park in Japan, with a pitcher who throws batting practice for him and another player he plays catch with. Ichiro might take 150 swings against live pitching each day in the offseason. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • GM Doug Melvin has recently discussed an extension to his contract with the Brewers, although it’s unlikely he and the team will agree to one before the season starts, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Melvin’s contract expires after the 2015 season. Counting his previous job with the Rangers, Melvin has now been a GM for about two decades, and it sounds like he remains at least somewhat enthusiastic about continuing. “I still think I’m good at what I do and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I like the draft-and-development part of the job and that’s something we’ll always have to do in our market.”
  • The fact that he’s with the Dodgers now doesn’t mean Jimmy Rollins can’t relate to fans who dislike them, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “For a long time – you don’t hear ‘Beat the Dodgers,’ you don’t hear ‘Beat the Lakers,’ even the Clippers now – it’s ‘Beat L.A.,'” says Rollins. “It’s everything L.A. stands for. . . . I’ve heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side.” This isn’t the first interview Rollins has given about how strange it can feel for a player to spend years with one organization and then abruptly switch to another, but his perspective on a common but little-discussed situation is still refreshing to read.

NL East Notes: Turner, Moncada, Ichiro, Markakis

Shortstop Trea Turner is technically still a member of the Padres, but it’s one of baseball’s worst-kept “secrets” that he’ll be headed to the Nationals in June as a player to be named later in the three-team Wil Myers trade once he’s a year removed from being drafted. Turner tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that while he does find the situation to be a bit weird, he’s happy to have had a normal camp thus far. “A little bit. It’s been awesome, though, because a lot of my teammates don’t really care too much about it. They know the business side, and things like this can happen all the time, so I haven’t been treated differently than I thought I would.” Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, called the situation “unconscionable” at the time of the trade but released the following statement yesterday, per Lin: “Trea has put this matter behind him and is focusing on his development and being a productive member of the Padres organization.”

Some more notes pertaining to the NL East…

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that his team was in contact with Yoan Moncada‘s agent, David Hastings, right up until the end when Moncada agreed to sign with the Red Sox this week. However, Amaro declined to get into specifics or even give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked by Zolecki if the Phillies submitted a formal offer for the highly touted 19-year-old.
  • Ichiro Suzuki is appreciative of how accommodating the Marlins were during negotiations, and the positive feelings he got from the organization are a large reason that he signed there, writes Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida. (For example, the Marlins have added facilities for Ichiro’s Pilates machine in their Spring Training and regular season homes, said Ichiro through a translator.) He’s also very accepting of his role as a fourth outfielder, which manager Mike Redmond said was a key component in the deal.
  • New Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has been cleared for running and extensive workouts, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Markakis won’t be in the lineup for the early games in Spring Training and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to compete come Opening Day, but he tells O’Brien that’s absolutely his goal. Manager Fredi Gonzalez tells O’Brien that he is optimistic that Markakis, who signed a four-year, $44MM contract this winter, will be ready for the opener come April 6.

NL East Notes: Upton, Span, Howard, Marlins

If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.

In other news from the NL East:

  • Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
  • With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
  • Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.
  • The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.

Marlins Sign Ichiro Suzuki

JAN. 29: Ichiro can earn up to $2.8MM in bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  The outfielder will earn $400K for reaching the 300-plate appearance plateau, and then another $400K for each additional 50 PA up to 600 plate appearances.

JAN. 28: Ichiro’s deal could reach up to $5MM if he receives enough plate appearances, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported earlier this week (on Twitter). That, of course, is only likely in the event of a significant injury to another outfielder, as Jackson notes.

JAN. 27: The Marlins have officially announced the signing of free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract that is reportedly worth $2MM.  The 41-year-old Ichiro, a client of John Boggs & Associates, should serve as Miami’s fourth outfielder in 2015.

Ichiro Suzuki

Though his skills have clearly eroded somewhat with age, Ichiro posted a respectable .284/.324/.340 batting line in 385 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2014. He also swiped 15 bases in 18 tries, continuing a career-long trend of pronounced efficiency in that regard. Defensive metrics pegged him as an average right fielder, and he slid over to center field for a brief, 19-inning cameo as well, suggesting that he’s capable of doing so in a pinch should the Marlins require such a move on occasion in 2015.

The Marlins’ primary outfield will consist of Christian Yelich in left field, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right — an excellent young trio that will limit Ichiro’s playing time and make it highly unlikely that he reaches the 156 hits he needs to reach 3,000 in his Major League career (he also had 1,278 hits in his Japanese career prior to jumping to MLB). However, there’s been no indication from his camp that this will be the likely Hall of Famer’s final season, so he could yet reach the plateau if he remains reasonably productive and secures another big league deal next offseason.

The addition of Ichiro merely adds to what has been a highly active season for the Marlins. In addition to this move, executives Dan Jennings and Michael Hill have added Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Martin Prado and Aaron Crow via trade while also signing free agent slugger Mike Morse to upgrade the team’s offense at first base.

Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio first reported the agreement (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that there were no options on the deal (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted the guarantee.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.