SEATTLE -- A day after franchise icon Edgar Martinez was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Mariners re-signed their next likely Hall of Famer, as Ichiro Suzuki agreed to a Minor League deal that will allow him to open the season with the Major League club if
SEATTLE -- A day after franchise icon Edgar Martinez was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Mariners re-signed their next likely Hall of Famer, as Ichiro Suzuki agreed to a Minor League deal that will allow him to open the season with the Major League club if he stays healthy this spring.
General manager Jerry Dipoto has repeatedly said he expects the 10-time All-Star will be on Seattle's roster for the first two games of the regular season in Tokyo from March 20-21 against the A's, when the club is allowed to carry three extra players for the international trip.
Ichiro, who has made more than $167 million in his 18-year Major League career, also earned $750,000 last season after signing with Seattle during Spring Training and then playing 15 games before accepting a position as assistant to the chairman, which allowed him to continue working out and hitting with the club every day, but not playing in games.
The Mariners have largely remade their roster this winter with younger players, but Dipoto has committed to keeping Ichiro as part of the club for the series in Japan, and he isn't ruling out a longer role.
Dipoto expects his regular-season outfield to be Mitch Haniger in right, newly acquired Mallex Smith in center and Domingo Santana in left, with veteran Jay Bruce also getting at-bats in left as well as designated hitter and possibly first base.
That doesn't leave much room for Ichiro, but the veteran has been working out daily in Japan this winter with the intention of playing for a full season. A year ago, the .311 career hitter appeared to be without a team until injuries to Ben Gamel and Haniger in Spring Training led Dipoto to sign him on March 7, just three weeks before the start of the regular season.
"One thing I've learned with Ichiro, his preparation and focus is the best I've ever seen on any player I've ever encountered," Dipoto said earlier this month. "His single-mindedness in achieving a goal is so real that I won't put anything past him.
"Frankly, if he rolls out in Tokyo and gets seven hits in two games, there's a pretty good chance he'll play a third game. You have to adjust as you go. We're not going to predetermine anything. We'll give him the opportunity to come in and do what he does, and prepare the way he prepares."
Ichiro hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances last year after returning to the Mariners following 2 1/2 seasons with the Yankees and three with the Marlins. He spent his first 12 Major League seasons in Seattle and has 2,542 of his 3,089 MLB hits in a Mariners uniform.
David Adler is a reporter and researcher for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.