The Mariners Say Winning Not Priority, Sign Ichiro

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 20: Ichiro Suzuki
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 20: Ichiro Suzuki /

The Seattle Mariners have reportedly filled their left field opening by signing 44-year-old legend Ichiro Suzuki to a 1 year deal. The decision was divisive amongst the fan base, but nobody should overlook what this signing means.

The goal of the 2018 Seattle Mariners is not to end their 16 year playoff drought. If the Ichiro signing proves anything, it is that which is stated above. They do not care. At least, not the people who sign the paychecks of Jerry Dipoto and company.

Would ownership like to win? Sure. There are a lot of benefits to making the playoffs, including an increase in ticket sales, generating interest in your product, and, of course, HAVING A CHANCE TO WIN A WORLD SERIES.

But to the Mariners, who are in the midst of a “slow burn rebuild”, the optimal strategy is not to overspend to make your team good. Rather, the strategy is to spend enough to give the appearance of caring, without venturing too far away from the 81 win mark.

You see, the Mariners have the 7th highest payroll in baseball. Yet, they are roughly $30 million below the luxury tax threshold, and are currently projected to win between 78-82 games. In many year, this late in the off-season, the ability to improve with impact moves would stunted. This is not “many years.”

As the team has already dealt with 2 injuries to it’s already thin starting rotation, what have they done to fix it? Go after big names like Lance Lynn and Jake Arrieta? No. Perhaps a more reasonable approach of short-term safe deals like Jaime Garcia or Andrew Cashner? Nope.

Trade the bag of balls it took to acquire Jake Odorizzi or Ivan Nova? Nope. The Mariners solution to their pitching woes? Sign Ichiro.

The Mariners entered the Spring Training with a potential hole at first base. After all, they knew Ryon Healy wasn’t able to swing a bat all winter. The bone spurs found in his hand must have been disappointing. But surprising? Give me a break.

So to protect against the possibility of serious injury, did the go get Carlos Santana or Eric Hosmer? No, to expensive right? So surely they hard after the Logan Morrison who signed a 1 year deal? Wrong again. No, the Mariners solution to the first base problem was actually Ichiro.

The Mariners entered Spring Training with a good, young outfield that included a left fielder with a 6 week track record of success at the MLB level, a centerfielder who had never played center, and a right fielder who made 2 separate trips to the DL in his rookie season. Plus, a 4th outfielder who was coming off shoulder surgery.

The Mariners didn’t swim in the pound for Lorenzo Cain like the deep pocketed Milwaukee Brewers(sarcasm) but they knew they had a hole to fill. Did they do it with Carlos Gomez on a 1 year deal? Or by trading a bag of balls for Corey Dickerson? No. You see, the Mariners brilliant plan to help their young, athletic outfield is 44-year-old Ichiro.

You see, the Mariners have acted, not as a franchise who’s lone priority is winning. No. Instead, they are acting as a team that is interested in keeping their fans interested just long enough to take their money, and of course, it’ll work.

I already have bought tickets to 2 games in the first month. I love going to Mariners games. They are incredibly fun, and this roster does have exciting players. All I ask of Mariners upper management is the truth. Don’t serve me chicken s*** and tell me it’s chicken parm.

The Mariners aren’t hard up for money. They have an incredibly lucrative TV deal, a beautiful ballpark, a thriving market in a great sports town. They also have the possibility of shedding $40-$60 million off their books in a 2 year span.

We are out of money is not a valid excuse, especially if the team will be shedding contracts of Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and Kyle Seager in the near future.

It is not Ichiro’s fault that probably can’t going to help the Mariners in 2018. The guy is 44-years-old, and his declining skill set is a secret to no one. The fault lies with the Mariners who have set themselves up for a lose-lose situation.

For the sake of argument, let’s say this signing has a 50-50 split. 50% support the signing, 50% don’t. What happens when Ben Gamel comes back and Guillermo Heredia is cleared for duty? The right thing to do would be to DFA Ichiro.

Taking a single plate appearance away from a player you consider part of your future to give to a 44-year-old player is moronic. So you release, and now half your fans are mad that you “disrespected” their sports idol.

Or, you keep him on your roster, lose the ability to carry the 8th member of your bullpen, and go into the season with 4 of your 5 starters on an innings limit without an extra arm to pick up the slack. You also take away 1 game a week from Haniger, Gamel or Heredia.

So the Mariners have placed themselves in a situation where they will either need to, A. be the villians for releasing Ichiro or, B. take AB’s from players who are a part of your future.

To borrow a phrase from MLB Network’s Brian Kenny, the Mariners have chosen branding over baseball.

The simple truth is, the Mariners are signing Ichiro, not because they think he helps the big league team. They are signing him to try to placate a fan base who is nearly universally unhappy with the past offseason.

Did the Mariners get better today? Probably not. Did they get worse? Maybe. But the simple fact is, Seattle didn’t put their best foot forward to fill the obvious gaps in their team. They didn’t go all out to win.

Next: Signing Ichiro Isn't The End OF the World

The Mariners may get lucky. Perhaps they stumble into the playoffs, and everything lines up correctly and they get to host a game at Safeco Field. But if it happens, it won’t be because the upper management. The Mariners 2018 playoff hopes aren’t based on anything but hoping for other teams to fail. No matter what the team tries to sell me, that isn’t “good”.