MLB: Mariners bring back Ichiro Suzuki
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — The Seattle Mariners are bringing back Ichiro Suzuki.
Seattle finalized a $750,000, one-year deal with 44-year-old Japanese star on Wednesday after several outfielders got hurt. He can earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $200,000 each for 150 and each additional 50 through 350, and $250,000 for 400.
Suzuki spent the first 11 major league seasons with the Mariners, earning 2001 AL Rookie of the Year and MVP, winning a pair of batting titles and becoming a 10-time All-Star. He was traded to the New York Yankees midway through 2012, played parts of three seasons with the Yankees, then spent three seasons with Miami.
He has a .312 average and 3,080 hits. Suzuki appeared in 136 games last year and hit .255 with a .318 on-base percentage.
“The addition of Ichiro gives our team another versatile and athletic outfielder,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “His incredible work ethic, preparation and focus will enhance our environment in many ways. He’s truly one of the great players in the history of the game and his unquestionable presence is a valuable addition, both on the field and in the clubhouse.”
Ben Gamel is sidelined for at least a month with a strained oblique muscle, Mitch Haniger is dealing with a hand injury that has limited his activity for a couple of weeks, and Guillermo Heredia is still in the final stages of recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
Suzuki underwent a physical in Seattle on Monday. His return is similar to the Mariners’ reunion with Ken Griffey Jr. in 2009 that was good for one year but had an ugly conclusion.
Seattle has significant concerns about depth in the outfield, especially after the latest injury to Gamel. The question is why Seattle went with Suzuki rather than the likes of Jose Bautista, Carlos Gonzalez or John Jay, who were available as free agents and far younger than Suzuki.
There’s no questioning Suzuki’s place in Seattle’s history, on par with Griffey and Edgar Martinez as the finest players in franchise history. Suzuki collected 2,533 hits with the Mariners, including 262 in 2004 when he set the all-time record for hits in a season. His trade to New York during the 2012 season was a stunning conclusion to his time in Seattle, but gave Suzuki the chance to play in the postseason for the first time since his rookie season.