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Friday, July 3, 2020

Ichiro requested trade from Mariners at All-Star break

A historic era in Seattle ended on Monday when Ichiro Suzuki was shockingly traded to the New York Yankees. Ichiro was a franchise legend for the Mariners. He came over to Seattle from Japan in 2001 when he was 27 and led the league in hits, batting average, and stolen bases. He won Rookie of the Year and MVP, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award, and became an All-Star. He made the All-Star team 10 straight times and led the AL in hits seven times.

But the Mariners, which made four playoff appearances from 1995-2001, lost much more with Ichiro than they won. After leading MLB with 116 wins in 2001, the Mariners never made it back to the postseason. They finished last in the AL West six of the next 10 seasons, and the losing had worn on Suzuki. Feeling that the rebuilding Mariners would be better served dealing him for prospects, and desiring to play for a winner, Ichiro approached the Mariners during the All-Star break to ask for a trade.

The Mariners obliged and dealt him to the Yankees on Monday for pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Seattle fans are frustrated with the deal; not only are the Mariners paying part of the $6.7 million remaining on Suzuki’s salary, but they only got back two middling prospects in return. What’s worse is that both prospects were pitchers and that doesn’t even address the Mariners’ dreadful offense.

Mariners executives said they wanted to give Ichiro a chance to play for a contender before his career ends. They did that by dealing him to the Yankees who have the best record in MLB. And thanks to a three-game series between the teams, Suzuki didn’t have to travel to join his new club.

Ichiro batted eighth in his first game for the Yankees, played right field, and wore jersey No. 31 because franchise legend Bernie Williams was the last Yankee to wear No. 51. He went 1-for-4 with a stolen base and contributed to a 4-1 win. Suzuki is playing right field temporarily with Nick Swisher out, but he’s expected to mostly play left field for the Yankees.

Even though he’s 38 and has experienced a drop-off in his stats, this is the type of move that could revitalize his career. Playing on a losing team with little offensive support weighs on a player and makes it tougher to perform well. Being in a lineup full of sluggers may take the pressure off Ichiro and allow him to blossom and hit like he did a few years ago. I think this was a great move for the Yankees.

The move also solves a problem the Mariners were going to have. Suzuki’s contract was up at the end of the season, and they might have felt it was their franchise obligation to sign him to a contract he probably wasn’t worth (they approached him during the season about an extension but he wouldn’t commit). Now Jay Buhner and anyone else concerned about the Mariners overpaying for a franchise legend won’t have to worry.

Ichiro received a standing ovation from the Seattle fans when he went out to right field in the first:

He also bowed to the fans when he took his first Major League at-bat as a non-Mariner. Below is a video of the Seattle executives’ and Ichiro’s speech at the news conference before the game:

It’s always difficult to say goodbye to a franchise legend, but it was time for both sides to move on. This is a relatively painless way of doing so. You just wish the Mariners would have gotten more for him.

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