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Would anyone want Ichiro?

Aug 10, 2010, 7:00 PM EST

The Mariners clearly need to make more changes this winter, and adding power to their punchless lineup is going to have to be priority No. 1.
But power is expensive and the Mariners already have about $78 million* tied up on a 2011 team without a No. 2 starter, a third baseman, a designated hitter or a setup man.
*I’m putting down David Aardsma, Jason Vargas and Brandon League for $8 million in arbitration.
So, the time is almost here for the Ichiro Suzuki speculation to start up again. The flounding Mariners resisted the idea of trading Ichiro back in 2007, signing him to a five-year, $90 million extension instead.
The contract will have two years and $34 million left on it at season’s end. Ichiro has a partial no-trade clause, allowing him to block deals to 10 teams.
I tend to doubt that the Mariners would move him. The team doesn’t lack funds, and Ichiro’s contract has never prevented the club from adding talent.
Still, it’s an interesting question. Would anyone want a 37-year-old leadoff man who seems to have lost a step defensively and hasn’t been quite the same offensively this year?
Ichiro is currently hitting .311/.362/.388, which is practically the same line he put up in his worst season to date, when he hit .311/.361/.386 in 2008.
At age 35, Ichiro was able to rebound in 2009, posting his second highest OPS as a major leaguer. He hit .352/.386/.465 for a team that overachieved last season.
But this year, Ichiro has again looked almost disinterested at times. Perhaps he’s worn down playing for a team that’s going to miss the postseason for a ninth year in a row. He’s still in the lineup everyday, but his always modest power production could hit a new low and, aside from last week’s sudden four-steal outburst in a loss to the Rangers, he’s done less running over the last seven weeks.
There can’t be many teams that could afford to add Ichiro at $17 million. Most would be stretched to pay a leadoff man half that. Given that he’s been worth $17 million just once in the last three years, it’d be crazy for a team to take on that entire salary and still give the Mariners the young talent they’d want in return for Ichiro.
But who might be willing to make the move? The assumption is the Yankees and Angels will make big runs at Carl Crawford this winter. The Nationals, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Tigers and White Sox might also be involved. Ichiro could be a consolation prize for one of the teams.
I think the Dodgers would be the perfect fit. With Manny Ramirez coming off the books, they have about $70 million in obligations for 2011, less if they chose to trade or non-tender Russell Martin. They could definitely use a new player with a built-in fanbase to replace Ramirez, and no one available will fit the bill like Ichiro.
Of course, the unstable ownership may doom that. Plus, it’s unclear whether Ichiro would want to play in the National League or in L.A.
Unless Ichiro makes it clear that he’d like to move on, odds are that he’ll stay in Seattle and finish out his contract as a Mariner. Whether he’ll do so for a winning team is still a long way from being determined.

  1. Ffej - Aug 10, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Twins trade for him, as long as three things were to happen this offseason: Hudson leaves (most likely from wanting signifigantly more than he’s making this year), Cuddyer leaves (wanting the same or more than he makes now), and the Mariners eat half or more of the rest of Ichiro’s contract. Money wise he would be a little more than half what those two make now, and the Twins have options (defensively at least) to use at 2nd base. I just would love to see Span and Ichiro setting the table for Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and hopefully Thome back for another year. Wait a second, that would be a lot of leftys in a row in the lineup, but it sure would be fun to watch angainst rightys!

  2. Reflex - Aug 10, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    And why would such a deal make sense for Seattle when Ichiro makes the team far more than his seventeen mil due to a massive built in fan base and the fact that they sell tons and tons of merchandise in Japan simply by his very presence? Why would they pay a chunk of his salary, accept no serious prospects back, and have him produce for another team, while losing the major revenue stream he brings in?
    I’ve been a proponent of the ‘trade Ichiro’ line for several years now. He’s in his 30’s and his game relies on speed, something that is bound to dissapear as he ages. The M’s waited one year too long with Bret Boone, and they are poised to do the same with Ichiro. But there is no way they should pay his salary while losing the revenue stream and production. Not unless they get a major return in terms of prospects.
    Given that, he’s more of a ‘deadline deal’ kinda trade, when a wealthy team has an injury and gets desperate. Someone with a deep farm system. Yanks or Red Sox for instance. But given Ichiro’s special relationship with the M’s ownership, I don’t see him ever getting delt. He’ll finish out his contract and then decide whether or not to do a final farewell season with the M’s, or sign somewhere else for a final year with a contender. Or both, should the M’s farm system pay off by then.

  3. easports82 - Aug 10, 2010 at 10:18 PM

    I nearly gagged and vomited at the same time while reading this scenario. I gotta go get some more rum…

  4. moolah954 - Aug 11, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    whats the 10 teams ???

  5. BC - Aug 11, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    The Dodgers make perfect sense. Assuming their nitwit owners figure out the divorce situation and actually decide to spend money.
    Here’s a scarier idea. Philly. Drop him in there in place of Werth. Yikes.

  6. SeattleSlew - Aug 11, 2010 at 11:11 PM

    I think that Ichiro will attempt to not only obtain 3000 U.S. hits, but in so doing will have also passed Pete Rose’s 4256 if you combine the 3000 here in the U.S. with the 1278 he had in Japan. He is at 2176 right now, so needs 824 to accomplish that. If he gets about 60 more this year, 180 in each of the next two years he will be right around 2600 hits when his contract expires in 2012. If he can generate 200 in each of the next two years then he will be at 2640 or so. He is in superb physical condition and it is difficult to judge any of the Mariners real performance this year based on the horrible lineup as well as the chaos overall. I believe he will sign another contract for at least 2 years when this one expires, and possibly three on his road to becoming a much more appropriate representation of the All Time Hit King than Pete Rose.

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