WEDNESDAY: Seattle has formally announced the signing.
Ichiro receives a $750K salary with incentives that could boost the deal’s total value to $2MM, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Ichiro can take home $200K apiece upon reaching 150, 200, 250, 300, and 350 plate appearances, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. He’ll get $250K if he strides to the plate for a 400th time on the season.
TUESDAY: Ichiro has a jersey and a locker, MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets, which seems a good indication that the deal will soon be finalized.
MONDAY, 4:28pm: Ichiro tells Yahoo’s Jordan Schultz that he is taking his physical for the Mariners this afternoon and will sign a one-year deal once he passes (Twitter link).
1:06pm: The Mariners are closing in on a one-year, Major League deal that’ll bring franchise icon Ichiro Suzuki back to Seattle, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick adds that the deal could be finalized either today or tomorrow. Ichiro is a client of agent John Boggs.
The likely agreement with Ichiro comes just hours after the Mariners learned that they’ll be without projected everyday left fielder Ben Gamel for up to six weeks due to an oblique strain. With right fielder Mitch Haniger also nursing some tendinitis in his hand and reserve outfielder Guillermo Heredia easing back into game action following October shoulder surgery, the Mariners have an obvious need for some outfield depth.
Ichiro, of course, started his Hall of Fame career in North American ball with the 2001 Mariners in a superlative season that won him a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP honors. Ichiro led the league in total hits (242), batting average (.350) and stolen bases (56) that season, posting an overall batting line of .350/.381/.457 and being named to the first of 10 consecutive All-Star teams.
That, obviously, was 17 years ago however, and the now-44-year-old Ichiro is more of a role player than an everyday option in the outfield. In 215 plate appearances with the Marlins last season, he batted just .255/.318/.332 with three homers and one steal. That said, those 215 PAs were a career-low, and he’s just one season removed from a solid offensive campaign in a more regular role. In 2016, Ichiro tallied 365 plate appearances and hit .291/.354/.376 with a homer, 15 doubles five triples and 10 steals. He should be able to hold down the fort in left as Gamel recovers from his oblique injury, and he can slide into a bench role from that point forth.
It’s been a long winter for Ichiro, who has been known to have been holding out for an opportunity to continue his career in Major League Baseball despite interest from multiple clubs in Japan. It now appears that he’ll not only have the opportunity to do so but that he’ll be allowed to continue in a city where he ranks among the most legendary figures in franchise lore. Ichiro will undoubtedly receive a hero’s welcome when the Mariners host the Indians in their season opener on March 29, and his return to Seattle presents no shortage of marketing, merchandise and promotional opportunities for the Mariners organization.