The Mariners have reached agreement on a minor-league deal with ageless outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). It would pay him at a $750K rate in the majors.
While the contract may come as a surprise to some, it has long been something of an inevitability. When the legendary former star wrapped up his most recent stint with the M’s last May, the sides made clear that the arrangement — in which Ichiro traveled and trained with the big league club but did not suit up for games — would not preclude a return to action in the future. Since that time, Ichiro has prepared to play in 2019, with the club indicating it would give him an opportunity in camp.
At this point, it’s a risk-free move for the Seattle team. Indications are that Ichiro will at least be utilized to open the season, as the M’s are slated to kick things off with a two-game series in his native Japan in which the team will be able to carry a 28-man roster. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess whether Ichiro has a real shot at sticking on the active roster, but it certainly seems at least possible he’ll do so in what has already been declared something of a transition year for the club.
Needless to say, it’s an unusual situation. Then again, few if any players have combined Ichiro’s (metaphorically) towering stature with his unending drive to play the game. For a Seattle team that has failed to reach its goals over the past few seasons (and then some), there’s obviously an opportunity here to continue to benefit from a uniquely great player. There’s also still no shortage of potentially tricky terrain to navigate.