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Marlins yet to determine Ichiro's 2018 status

44-year-old outfielder hoping to play in Miami for 18th MLB season
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Ichiro Suzuki celebrated his 44th birthday on Sunday, and the iconic outfielder with the Hall of Fame-worthy credentials is showing no signs of slowing down.

Since the Marlins' season ended on Oct. 1, Ichiro has remained in South Florida, working out regularly at Marlins Park. To Ichiro, the offseason doesn't mean it's time to take a break from training and preparing for what he hopes is an 18th season in the big leagues.

MIAMI -- Ichiro Suzuki celebrated his 44th birthday on Sunday, and the iconic outfielder with the Hall of Fame-worthy credentials is showing no signs of slowing down.

Since the Marlins' season ended on Oct. 1, Ichiro has remained in South Florida, working out regularly at Marlins Park. To Ichiro, the offseason doesn't mean it's time to take a break from training and preparing for what he hopes is an 18th season in the big leagues.

There is no questioning Ichiro's desire to continue playing or his impressive credentials. He ranks 22nd all-time with 3,080 hits, and his 9,885 total at-bats rank 30th all-time since 1900. But still unanswered is if the veteran outfielder will be part of Miami's plans in 2018.

The new group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter has until four days after the World Series ends to exercise or decline Ichiro's $2 million club option for next year.

Jeter, now chief executive officer of the Marlins, was Ichiro's former teammate on the Yankees.

"Ichi has always been one of my favorite teammates," Jeter said earlier this month. "I've said that. I was vocal about that."

As for whether the club option would be picked up, Jeter noted it will be an organizational decision. Ichiro has spent three seasons with the Marlins, and he's made a home in South Florida.

"There's no reason not to be back here," Ichiro said at the end of the season.

The Marlins have organizational meetings this week, and the new regime will determine which direction to take the club. There are plenty of unanswered questions, including whether the organization will rebuild or keep the main core. Where Ichiro stands must also be decided.

Ichiro is one of the most popular players on the club, and the case can be made that for $2 million, he is a bargain as a fourth outfielder.

Ichiro's line was .255/.318/.332. But in the second half, it was .299/.384/.379. By comparison, backup outfielder Norichika Aoki, who finished 2017 with the Mets, made $5.5 million. The 35-year-old had a slash line of .277/.335/.393.

Getting playing time was a challenge for Ichiro, because the Marlins' regular outfielders are the strength of the team. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich each played in more than 150 games.

Ichiro's role was primarily as a pinch-hitter, and his 27 pinch-hit hits fell one shy of John Vander Wal's MLB single-season record of 28 in 1995.

No position player has ever played regularly past age 50. Julio Franco came the closest, seeing action in his final game at 49. Ichiro has repeatedly said he hopes to play until at least 50. For now, he is waiting to see if he fits in with the Marlins at 44.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Ichiro Suzuki