Ichiro Suzuki has been the face of the Mariners for several years, but he’s turning 39 years old in October and in the final year of his contract. As would be the case with most players in their late-30s, Suzuki’s numbers are rapidly declining. The Mariners outfielder finished the season last year with a .272 average — the first time he failed to hit over .300 in his 11-year MLB career. This season, he is hitting just .259 with only 13 stolen bases. Now, Seattle has to figure out what to do with him.
Mariners legend Jay Buhner is hoping his former team doesn’t make an emotional decision when Suzuki’s contract expires at the end of the season. When asked what he would say if the Mariners offered Ichiro a three-year deal worth around $35 million, Buhner expressed disgust.
“I’d vomit,” Buhner told ESPN 710’s “Brock and Salk Show” according to The Seattle Times. “I mean, really, no offense. No offense, we’ve got to get this organization turned around. You can’t be spending all the money on one guy.
“But at the same time, they need help desperately. They need some veteran leadership in the clubhouse. Wedgie (manager Eric Wedge) can’t keep growing the beard, growing the mustache, shaving it off, that’s not the answer.”
Jay is right. A veteran presence would be nice — for the right amount of years and dollars. The problem the Mariners have is that Ichiro is a franchise icon and fan inspiration. Seattle ranks 26th in the league in average attendance this season, so the last thing they need to do is give more fans a reason to stop showing up. That being said, they also can’t afford to be dedicating a large chunk of their payroll to players who are going to fall off the map very shortly. If Ichiro is not willing to take a one or two-year deal for little money, Seattle needs to let him walk. Otherwise they’ll have this problem on their hands.
H/T Big League Stew
Photo credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, US PRESSWIRE