Ichiro Suzuki won’t be back with the Marlins, as their new owners have re2pectfully declined to pick up his team option. He is 44 and a free agent coming off a season in which he had a 76 OPS+. This would appear to be the end for him.
On the other hand, he is Ichiro, and he is not looking forward to retirement.
“When you retire from baseball, you have until the day you die to rest,” Ichiro said.
And when he retires, he added.
“I think I’ll just die,” he said.
He wants to go the Rickey Henderson route, then, even if that means playing for the San Diego Surf Dawgs when he’s 46. He’ll have a lot of options, from independent-league teams in the United States to the NPB to independent-league teams in Japan. There will be years left of Ichiro! if he wants to keep playing professionally. Which he does.
However, don’t rule out a return to another MLB team. Ichiro is older than his peers, certainly, and his season was disappointing for the Marlins.
He still has skills, though. He can ...
- make contact
This is all why he’s averaged roughly a win above replacement for the past seven years, including one of his best years in 2016. With some help with batting average on balls in play, he can be an excellent bat off the bench. With typical luck, he’s an OK fifth outfielder, capable of playing all three outfield positions. He’s the kind of player a manager would love to have on an American League team, where pinch hitters aren’t deployed two or three times a game to take the pitcher’s spot in the lineup, but rather can be used to get a runner home from third with fewer than two outs.
Plus, he’s Ichiro. Print the shirseys up now.
This might be the end for Ichiro, certainly, but something tells me that MLB isn’t done with him yet. There will be a team hoping that his bat control is still more important than his age, and they’ll take whatever PR benefits accompany the signing of one of baseball’s greatest gifts to the world, even if he’s pretty danged old by baseball standards.