According to information shared with Sodo Mojo by Billy Brost of FanSided’s NY Yankees site Yanks Go Yard, Ichiro Suzuki is still wanting to play baseball. Could he be thinking about a return to Seattle?
Here are the details: Ichiro and an unidentified man were enjoying lunch at a California Pizza Kitchen in Bellevue, Washington.
(Note: Bellevue is right across Lake Washington from Seattle and Safeco Field; Ichiro lived in nearby Issaquah while playing for the Mariners).
Ichiro and the other gentleman were overheard speaking to each other in English, talking about baseball and Ichiro’s future plans. In recent weeks, Ichiro has made known that he’d like to continue playing Major League Baseball in hopes of getting to the 3,000 hit milestone in the MLB.
Ichiro having lunch in Bellevue. Does he want to return to Seattle?
Ichiro currently has 2,844 hits in his 14 MLB seasons to go along with 1,278 in Japan. He would need 156 more hits to get to 3,000.
Over the course of the conversation, there was no discernible mention of Ichiro returning to Seattle. Though Seattle was mentioned.
So what does this sighting mean for the Seattle Mariners?
It could, on one hand, give an indication that Ichiro does in fact want to return to Seattle and finish his playing days right where he started. In a funny twist of fate, he demanded to be traded back 2012 because he wanted to have a chance at a World Series ring.
And as of today, it seems the Seattle Mariners are closer to such achievement than the New York Yankees.
On the other hand, Ichiro could have just as easily been talking about his favorite restaurants in SoDo, or even explicitly telling his agent he has no desire to return to play in the Pacific Northwest.
But if that were the case, what would he be doing all the way back in Seattle? (Maybe he still lives here in the offseason).
If there is one thing for certain, Ichiro wants to keep playing baseball. And if he were to contact the Seattle Mariners hoping for a homecoming, what would Trader Jack and company say? What sort of value could Ichiro bring to this team ripe with young talent?
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In his two-and-a-half year absence from Seattle, Ichiro has accumulated 311 hits with the New York Yankees, averaging .322, .262, and .284 in 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively. As a mainly platoon player in the outfield the last two seasons, Ichiro is marked with a 2.4 WAR over those two seasons combined.
Ichiro turns 41 in eight days– and coincidentally he shares a birthday with the Mariners’ own Robinson Cano! but he’s only turning 32. That’s old by any stretch of the baseball imagination. He wouldn’t be an everyday player (hopefully).
However, looking at the Mariners roster, Ichiro’s 1.0 WAR in 2014 would have been tied for 8th among hitters on the team with Logan Morrison. He would have had the 3rd highest WAR among Mariners outfielders, with Dustin Ackley at 2.1 and Michael Saunders at 1.9 according to FanGraphs.
IF the Mariners were to sign or trade for a marquee outfield power bat, Ichiro could in theory be a viable 4th outfielder, defensive replacement, and pinch-hit option.
But if the Mariners signed Ichiro it would be unwise to have him as an everyday starter.
The question remains: Where will Ichiro play in 2015? Someone will give him a contract, even if it’s a small one to fill a niche role.
Only time will tell if the Seattle Mariners would ever want Ichiro back.