What To Do With Ichiro

Dave · June 19, 2012 at 10:55 am · Filed Under Mariners 

At 29-40, the Mariners are – as expected – not contending for any kind of postseason berth this year. They’re playing for the future, hoping to find a core group of kids who they can trust to play meaningful roles the next time the team actually is a contender. While they haven’t just thrown all the veterans overboard and completely punted the season, there’s no question that the focus of the organization is still in development and evaluation. And now that the team has a full complement of interesting under-30 outfielders available on a daily basis, the organization is going to have to decide how they should handle Ichiro over the final three months of the season.

His disastrous June performance has pushed his season line down to .255/.282/.363, even worse numbers than he posted last year. While his .263 BABIP is the main culprit, there’s no question that his attempt to adapt to the #3 spot in the line-up changed his approach at the plate, and not for the better. Ichiro’s at his best when he’s hitting the ball on the ground, but he’s posting (by far) the lowest ground ball rate of his career, and he doesn’t have enough power to be an effective fly ball hitter. Even if he can make some adjustments and get back some version of what he was previously, he’s no longer a significantly better hitter than the other available options.

ZIPS rest-of-season wOBA projections:

Saunders: .304
Wells: .304
Gutierrez: .295
Ichiro: .292

That projection accounts for a 30 point uptick from his current BABIP, so even with regression in that area, we can’t expect Ichiro to outhit the other options on the roster. Of course, his defense and baserunning provide value as well, so Ichiro is still useful, but there’s no longer a big gap between his expected value and the value of the guy who would replace him in the line-up. So, with four similarly valuable outfielders to choose from, how much should the 38-year-old play on a team that is focused on the future?

The answer is made a little bit easier by the fact that Franklin Gutierrez can’t be expected to play everyday, so there are regularly going to be days when the team really only has three options, since Guti will need a day off to stay healthy. On those days, obviously, Ichiro plays. But what about the days when Guti’s not available? What then?

If a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, Casper Wells needs to be in the line-up. And as long as he’s available, so does Gutierrez. So, that leaves one spot for Ichiro and Saunders, and we probably don’t want to be in a situation where Saunders is sitting against most left-handers in the second half of the year. The team needs to see whether he can sustain enough offensive value to be penciled in as a regular next year, and getting him at-bats has to be a priority. For his career, Ichiro doesn’t have much of a platoon split, but benching him against left-handers isn’t so much about him as it about the other guys on the roster. With two right-handed bats and a 25-year-old lefty who the organization needs to keep evaluating, it’s hard to make a case for Ichiro playing the outfield against LHPs on a regular basis over the rest of the season.

But what about against right-handers, who make up about 75% of all starting pitchers in baseball? Saunders is an obvious choice for one spot there, leaving two spots for three choices between Wells, Gutierrez, and Ichiro. And here, it’s probably not as vital to get the younger guys in the line-up every day. For one thing, neither is all that young, so evaluating them is a bit different than with a guy who is still developing like Saunders. Wells is on a nice hot streak at the moment, but he still profiles as more of a fourth outfielder than anything else. His lack of contact skills limit his upside, and while he can be a useful part-time player, he’s not a guy the team should be looking at as a full time player on a winning team. And, with Gutierrez, hitting right-handers has never been on a strong point, and giving him regular days off against tough RHPs is probably a decent way to keep his confidence up and his wear and tear down.

So, if Wells and Gutierrez essentially split time against righties for now, that’s not a sacrifice that will harm the organization’s ability to develop or evaluate pieces for the future. This isn’t to say that Ichiro has to play against every right-handed pitcher, but the team still gives themselves their best chance of winning by having him in the line-up against right-handers, and that chance to win isn’t coming at the expense of guys that need to be playing against all right-handers.

However, this calculus changes a bit when Mike Carp’s “rehab assignment” comes to an end in a month or so. Once they assign him to Tacoma, he only has 20 days down there before they have to bring him back to the big club, and while Carp is also a guy who is probably a part-time player on a winning club, he’s a guy that deserves to play against right-handers. While he fits best at DH, having him there pushes either Montero or John Jaso to the bench, and it’s probably not in the organization’s best interests either long term or short term to be taking those guys out of the line-up against righties. So, if you’re trying to get Saunders, Carp, Jaso, and Montero into the line-up against all righties, that uses up C, DH, and two outfield spots, leaving just one spot for Ichiro, Gutierrez, or Wells. And while I don’t think the team needs to prioritize playing both Guti and Wells against right-handers, they also shouldn’t be in a position where both of them are regularly on the bench. Both guys could have roles on the 2013 Mariners, and sitting them in 70% of the remaining games after Carp returns isn’t a great use of available playing time.

At some point in July, the team is probably going to have to make a decision on how much Ichiro is going to play over the final two months of the season, and it should probably be less than he would like to play. And that means the team needs to figure this out ahead of time. The last time they had an aging former star who they wanted to move to a diminished role, it didn’t go very well, and the aftermath of the situation got Don Wakamatsu fired. You would imagine that the organization has learned from that debacle, and will attempt to communicate with Ichiro better, or at least make sure that the situation is transparent enough that they don’t come off as the bad guys if Ichiro doesn’t like his new role.

Because he has 10-and-5 rights, the team can’t trade Ichiro without his consent, and I’m sure Jack Zduriencik couldn’t trade Ichiro without ownership approval even if Ichiro agreed to a deal. So, it’s not nearly as simple as just saying “ship him to a contender”. But, it’s probably worth beginning the conversation with the necessary parties. If Ichiro wants to finish out the season on a contending team, that might be the best outcome for everyone, avoiding any potential ugliness if he ends up finishing his Mariner career as a part-time player. But if Ichiro doesn’t want to go anywhere – and given the cultural dynamics of living in a foreign country, his situation is quite a bit different than a typical players – then the team needs to figure out a plan that doesn’t end up in a PR disaster.

I’m sure they would have preferred if Ichiro would have just hit well and made all this a non-issue, but he hasn’t, and so now the question of how much Ichiro should play in the second half of the year is a legitimate question. They have room for him to play fairly regularly, but he probably shouldn’t be an everyday guy anymore, at least not on this team. And if he doesn’t want to change cities mid-season, that means that the organization needs to have a better plan than when they tried this with Ken Griffey Jr a couple of years ago.

Carp’s “injury” buys them some time. They don’t have to make any of these decisions today, or even this month. But, with the trade deadline coming and a potentially overcrowded OF/DH situation occurring upon Carp’s return, this isn’t something that they can put off for much longer. Whether he’s amenable to a trade probably needs to be figured out now, and if he isn’t, a suitable plan that allows for a graceful finish to his career should be put in place. While he’s not what he used to be, he’s still one of the best players in franchise history, and the Mariners can’t afford to keep having those guys end their careers in Seattle on a bad note.

Comments

73 Responses to “What To Do With Ichiro”

  1. maqman on June 19th, 2012 11:08 am

    It’s a dilemma for sure with factors other than performance being inherent to the quandary he and the team will have to confront, if not right now then in the foreseeable future. One would hope the teams needs come first.

  2. Hooligan on June 19th, 2012 11:11 am

    It’s interesting that we celebrate our sports heroes when they stay with the same franchise their whole careers, even though it certainly creates a public mess as they approach retirement.

    Trading Ichiro could be disrespectful. Playing Ichiro could be harmful to developing others and cost wins. Benching Ichiro could embarass him.

    There’s more dignity in trading or losing a player mid-to-late career than we realize.

  3. make_dave_proud on June 19th, 2012 11:12 am

    What if Carp/Guti/Wells have dismal offensive output (not hard to project)? Continuing to play them the balance of the season (while sitting Ichiro) would be as much a PR disaster as anything. If they are on track, the effect is mitigated.

  4. djw on June 19th, 2012 11:22 am

    If what we’re seeing now is Ichiro’s skill level now, what role would he serve on a contending team? It’s hard to see him as more than a defensive replacement/part time player in such a context. I don’t have time at the moment to examine the outfield situations of contending teams, but it seems like the number of teams for which this might make sense is quite possibly extremely small.

  5. Westside guy on June 19th, 2012 11:29 am

    Dag-nabit Dave, I was just getting used to the idea of having a quality defensive outfield… and you had to go and remind me about Carp.

    On a more serious note: I know they need to be careful about Ichiro for a number of reasons; but I would think it’ll be easier to make these decisions now than if they’d had to do it last year. There’s no specter of killing his 200-hits-a-year streak anymore – his decline took care of that.

    I do think, as part of this discussion, people need to be reminded about his defensive value. He’s having a very good year in the field, but most people don’t seem to be considering that *at all*.

    I can’t say I disagree with anything you’ve written here. I do think, whatever choices the team makes, it’s probably most important to give Saunders lots of playing time. For some reason, I didn’t realize Wells is as old as he is – almost 28. At that age, the team knows (to a decent level of probability) what he brings to the table.

  6. Westside guy on June 19th, 2012 11:37 am

    On a side note: I’d argue (just strictly in terms of on-field value) making the playing-time choice between Wells and Ichiro is harder than between Carp and Ichiro. Even if Carp’s bat comes around, the defensive drop-off is huge. Wells, on the other hand, is an adequate defender. Not to mention that Carp and Ichiro are both lefties, while Wells offers a platoon advantage versus Ichiro.

    (yes, I realize I’m ignoring the fact that Carp is 26 while Wells is 28…)

  7. BLYKMYK44 on June 19th, 2012 11:55 am

    “It’s interesting that we celebrate our sports heroes when they stay with the same franchise their whole careers, even though it certainly creates a public mess as they approach retirement.”

    - It is more interesting that many sports fans vilify our sports heroes who move to a different team and question their loyalty, but don’t hold themselves to the same standards when a player sticks around and has the audacity to get old.

    - Is there any belief that one reason his June has been so bad is because they are finally playing games in Safeco and that trading him to a more hitter friendly park could help him?

  8. groundzero55 on June 19th, 2012 12:08 pm

    I wonder if the way the Mariners handle Ichiro through the remainder of the season affects his views on the rest of his career, for instance, if he is sat on more occasions, will he be more likely to consider retirement after the season than if he continues to get regular playing time?

  9. The_Waco_Kid on June 19th, 2012 12:14 pm

    It depends a bit on what Ichiro wants. Does he want to play til he’s sure he’s done, and go for 3,000? Does he want to retire gracefully, if he’s not sure he can still play well? Does he want to stay here as a part-time player or even bench player? (if not for this year, certainly next year) Does he want to play for a contender? (a team with an injured RF or looking for a 4th OF)

    I agree with Westy, his fielding means he still has value. I’d be interested to see a Wells/Ichiro platoon. Also, DH Carp and have Montero catch more. Montero can handle catching til Zunino comes up.

  10. msfanmike on June 19th, 2012 12:46 pm

    Ichiro can resolve all of this for us – by hitting the ball. And, he has managed to execute these types of “resolutions” in the past. Just not within the near-term/recent past.

    Great article by the way, Dave.

    Father Time being the bastard it is (and just wait to see what the next 10 years has in store for you, Ichiro), it might be a foregone conclusion as to what happens next.

    However, Ichiro still has plenty of speed, athletic ability and a high contact rate. If his role becomes that of a 70% of the time player (or less) for the rest of this season, so be it.

    The team has shown a willingness to let Ichiro resolve this dilemna, himself. I think they have handled the situation very well up to this point. I assume they will continue to handle things well.

    I know Bobby Valentine loved Ichiro and he was the one who predicted Ichiro would come to the United States and win ROY, a batting title and an MVP award.

    Whether or not there is a trade match or even a trade interest (since Boston is struggling) is another matter entirely … and I do not want to tradebate or rosterbate.

    As long as the team has a good plan (as Dave mentioned) – that is all that anyone can ask. The guy still has something left in the tank and there is no harm in finding out exactly how much. Good April. Bad May. Worse June (so far). Similar pattern as last year, actually.

  11. Jopa on June 19th, 2012 1:07 pm

    I think the win-win here, and I would do this if I were Ichiro, is to ask for a trade. He can provide the M’s with a short list of teams he would accept a trade to and request that the M’s don’t ask for much in return and assume most of the rest of his contract.

    He’d avoid playing part-time in what may be his final season for yet another 90+ loss team. He’d get a fun run at the playoffs and possibly into the playoffs. He’d get a chance to see if he could hit better in a different environment, possibly allowing him to continue his career into next season.

    And, of course, one last chance to play in the World Series.

  12. Lauren, token chick on June 19th, 2012 1:11 pm

    I don’t have anything useful or innovative to say here. Just… damn. If anyone could come up with a way to best use their declining skills, I thought it would be Ichiro. I really hoped he’d figure out a way to semi-magically change his approach to make himself useful in a new way. Unrealistic expectations on my part. But I’m sad this day has come.

  13. eternal on June 19th, 2012 1:15 pm

    I feel the same way as Lauren. It would be nice if Ichiro! could head off to a contending team for the last few months. I don’t know how that could happen but I’m hoping he gets a shot.

  14. raul_podzednick on June 19th, 2012 1:21 pm

    Supposing ownership would OK it and Ichiro would OK it, what kind of trade value does he have?

    Potential targets?

  15. Jopa on June 19th, 2012 1:45 pm

    I think most of the value would come from how much of his remaining salary the other team would assume, and I wouldn’t expect it to be much. Saving money seems to be the M’s priority these days.

    Targets (teams?) would be up to Ichiro since he can reject all trades. I would love to watch him get hot in a playoff run for another team.

  16. CCW on June 19th, 2012 2:01 pm

    It’s hard to figure out exactly what makes Ichiro tick, but I don’t think he’d want a trade, I don’t think the M’s would trade him, and I don’t think anyone would particularly want him anyway. I don’t buy the trade angle at all. Plus, it will probably be pretty easy to get him enough ABs to finish the season here in respectable / respectful fashion. Smoak doesn’t deserve nearly as much PT as he has been getting. He’s hitting .219 / .279 / .355 this year, for gawd’s sake. And Guti might prove to be awful. I think a slow reduction in Ichiro’s playing time, with the obligatory end-of-season goodbyes and promotions, and that will do it for his time as a Mariner.

  17. Milendriel on June 19th, 2012 2:09 pm

    Convert Ichiro to a pitcher… problem solved!

  18. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 2:11 pm

    If what we’re seeing now is Ichiro’s skill level now, what role would he serve on a contending team? It’s hard to see him as more than a defensive replacement/part time player in such a context. I don’t have time at the moment to examine the outfield situations of contending teams, but it seems like the number of teams for which this might make sense is quite possibly extremely small.

    Not to mention the fact that we’re talking about a part time OFer who would be making something like $6 million the last two months of the season.

    Nobody in MLB is going to want a $6 million part time OFer, so what that means is the M’s would be sending cash AND Ichiro, and probably getting very little in return. Hard to read that any way other than “you suck, go away”.

    Is seeing if Mike Carp or Casper Wells is going to beat their odds of being more than a bit player at the MLB level worth publicly dissing your HOF OFer? Probably not.

    Also, a quibble here:

    “So, if you’re trying to get Saunders, Carp, Jaso, and Montero into the line-up against all righties, that uses up C, DH, and two outfield spots”

    Is Smoak out of options? Because out of a list of Ichiro, Saunders, Carp, Jaso, Montero, Guti, Smoak and Wells, the guy who’s been the biggest drag on his teams in terms of WAR is Smoak. Yes, the M’s need to spend more time evaluating their young players. Well, at some point Smoak’s failed the Jeremy Reed/Jose Lopez test- hasn’t built on his minor league success. 1200 plate appearances or so and still replacement level? How much longer does he get as an everyday player before he’s just not the answer?

    Finally, I guess the other option is he leaves the team and heads home to Japan… wonder how that would go. That might get around the problem of nobody in MLB wanting a $6 million part time OFer. He might even do OK back home.

  19. Jopa on June 19th, 2012 2:13 pm

    I could see where the M’s wouldn’t want to trade him (end of season goodbyes… as you wrote) but I can’t see why you would think Ichiro wouldn’t want to be traded to a contender.

    And this isn’t about winning this year for the M’s, it’s about developing players. Smoak needs as many AB’s as he can get. So do Carp, Wells and Guti. They get better by playing.

  20. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 2:15 pm

    I think a slow reduction in Ichiro’s playing time, with the obligatory end-of-season goodbyes and promotions, and that will do it for his time as a Mariner.

    Yeah, this. Give him an occasional day off and make it clear this is the long goodbye.

  21. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 2:19 pm

    Smoak needs as many AB’s as he can get. So do Carp, Wells and Guti. They get better by playing.

    At some point, players are who they are, not who you want them to be.

    To put this another way, Jose Lopez is STILL only 28 years old this season- exactly one year older than Casper Wells.

  22. Westside guy on June 19th, 2012 2:22 pm

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the bulk of what’s been posted here, but – Wells and Guti aren’t likely going to “develop” by any significant amount at this point. Wells is almost 28, Guti is 29. Guti will hopefully improve somewhat as he gets back into playing shape; but that’s not the same thing.

  23. currcoug on June 19th, 2012 2:25 pm

    “Is seeing if Mike Carp or Casper Wells is going to beat their odds of being more than a bit player at the MLB level worth publicly dissing your HOF OFer? Probably not.”

    Ichiro is making $17,000,000.00, while many baseball fans are unemployed…but I agree he needs to be treated with respect. However, every other superstar (including Junior) has had to come to terms with Father Time, and the pain of being replaced by younger players. Ichiro should be no different.

    In regards to Carp and Wells being bit players….Mike Morse and Bryan LaHair should be cautionary notes about underestimating same (and yes I know Morse is off to a slow start right now).

  24. Westside guy on June 19th, 2012 2:32 pm

    “Mike Morse and Bryan LaHair” – that’s cherry picking / confirmation bias. If you’re going to trot them out, you need to also list the thousands of guys who *didn’t* bloom really late after being written off, and figure out what the odds of that happening really are.

    But I don’t think anyone’s written off either Carp or Wells – just said they don’t expect them to be anything but supporting players. That’s still a role most guys would kill for.

  25. Jopa on June 19th, 2012 2:32 pm

    And then there’s Brandon Morrow, Doug Fister and RA Dickey.

    Some flame out and some develop into solid pros. The only way to know is play them. 1200 AB’s isn’t much for Smoak considering he only had 700 AB’s in the minors.

    And my whole point is entirely premised on Ichiro asking to be traded, not being pressured into it. If he wants to finish the season as a Mariner, fine. Find a way to do it respectfully. He obviously deserves it.

  26. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 2:34 pm

    In regards to Carp and Wells being bit players….Mike Morse and Bryan LaHair should be cautionary notes about underestimating same (and yes I know Morse is off to a slow start right now).

    And Jeremy Reed and Jose Lopez are just as cautionary the other way.

    Is it worth another organizational debacle to get Mike Carp or Casper Wells at most a hundred extra plate appearances each (assuming that you aren’t going to completely bench Ichiro and the season’s almost halfway over, that’s what we’re talking about, tops- them getting maybe 200 or so more PAs combined)?

    Also, this isn’t Junior we’re talking about (who was pretty much useless by his last couple of years in MLB), or Figgins (who’s useless now). Ichiro’s still among the team leaders in WAR right now. He’s not hurting the team playing in terms of the players you’re putting on the field; it’s that realistically he’s not part of the 2013 team, so it’s time to figure out how to come to terms with that and use the rest of 2012 to make 2013 better, without leaving bad tastes in everyone’s mouth.

  27. currcoug on June 19th, 2012 2:54 pm

    Yes, it is “worth it” to get Wells as many AB’s as possible…and unlike most people here, I believe Carp was still injured when he was placed on the DL again. Moreover, the Mariners do not have the depth to write off players like Carp and Wells, who are in their prime.

    As for the “bad taste”, that is mostly up to Ichiro, and I expect him to handle Father Time with class and dignity…hopefully, he doesn’t want to up finishing his career like his good friend Junior.

    BTW, do you really think the Mariners are not going to bring him back? I confess to thinking otherwise, especially if he magically resurrects himself for the rest of the season.

  28. BLYKMYK44 on June 19th, 2012 3:08 pm

    “Also, this isn’t Junior we’re talking about (who was pretty much useless by his last couple of years in MLB), or Figgins (who’s useless now). Ichiro’s still among the team leaders in WAR right now.”

    - Yep…the fact that Ichiro is still useful from a WAR perspective seems lost on many who just want to kick him out the door as quickly as possible.

  29. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 3:14 pm

    Moreover, the Mariners do not have the depth to write off players like Carp and Wells, who are in their prime.

    They aren’t in much of a prime, if this is their prime.

    BTW, do you really think the Mariners are not going to bring him back?

    Why would they bring Ichiro back in 2013 if they wouldn’t want to play him everyday for the rest of 2012, in preference to Carp and Wells? Dave’s premise is that Ichiro as a full time player doesn’t serve a useful role on a team that’s light-years from contention. The M’s aren’t going to suddenly be in contention with the current roster + farm system and their current payroll limits, especially given that resigning Ichiro at anything other than a massive pay cut would soak up a lot of their free payroll next year.

    They already have the problem of Chone Figgins collecting large paychecks for the 2013 season while clogging up the 2012 roster, so they aren’t going to sign Ichiro to a $8-10 million, one year deal to be another bench player (and that’s a big pay cut). Are you thinking “hey, take an even bigger pay cut from your last contract to be a bench player who might play a couple days a week” is a particularly attractive offer for Ichiro once he hits free agency, once you recall that he can just go back to Japan like Johjima and Sasaki did?

    The writing’s on the wall- Wedge’s been calling Ichiro out in the press, he’s getting days off, and Ichiro’s not the player he used to be. I don’t see him staying around to be a bench OFer on a roster that isn’t particularly close to contention in 2012 or 2013.

  30. SonOfZavaras on June 19th, 2012 3:19 pm

    Terrific article, Dave. Spells it out with your trademarked clear perception.

    My recommendation is the same as it’s been for awhile: whatever you choose to do with Ichiro’s remaining time in the big leagues, make sure Ichiro himself is part of the decision.

    But do it respectfully and frankly- since Ichiro has so much say in any trade conversations, expand his voice and ask for his input on what he thinks for the rest of his career. Is 2012 it for him? Does he want to play next year? Acknowledge very clearly how great he has been for the organization, but that the organization has decisions to make regarding him.

    I personally believe that Ichiro is more than enough of a realist to know that he’s simply not what he was, and it’s going to go all downhill from here…at best, he can slow the descent, but it will still come. Come this October, someone else other than Seattle (again) is going to be playing playoff baseball and he’ll turn 39. With a game that’s declining.

    Hard to have illusions with that situation, especially with the gray hairs on your head multiplying by the day.

    One thing I absolutely think should be said to Ichiro by ownership is: “Ichiro, look. By the time this Seattle team is ready to contend with the AL big boys, your time as a player is very likely to be done. Or you’ll be very near the end of the line. With that in mind, and IF we can arrange it- do you want one more chance at the playoffs and a World Series, THIS season? Because that won’t come if you’re here. It is time for us to know what you want for yourself more: to finish your career in Seattle, or to be in the post-season with a chance at the World Series. Whichever of those two roads you decide, this organization will do.”

    I’ve long maintained that Ichiro has not been a rank-and-file major-league ballplayer. Thankfully, the 5-and-10 rights give him the biggest voice of all in terms of his final roads taken as a player.

    But it’s very near time to ask Ichiro which way he thinks the wind is blowing for him.

  31. Mike Snow on June 19th, 2012 3:27 pm

    he can just go back to Japan like Johjima and Sasaki did

    Keep in mind that Johjima only went back to Japan after first getting signed to a ridiculous-on-its-face contract extension. That, as much as Ichiro’s preferences about playing time, batting order, and potential milestones, is where a lot of these concerns ultimately lead us. It’s an ownership making decisions based on something other than trying to put the best team on the field and win.

  32. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 3:35 pm

    Keep in mind that Johjima only went back to Japan after first getting signed to a ridiculous-on-its-face contract extension.

    That was back when the M’s actually could (or would, take your pick) spend $100-115 million a year on payroll.

    Right now, they’re at $80 million if they keep payroll constant (assuming that another year of swirling the AL toilet bowl doesn’t mean MORE salary cuts) and Felix, Guti and Figgins are going to chew up something over 30 million of that next year by themselves. Fill out the rest of the roster from there, and… well, you can see the problem.

    There isn’t money to keep Ichiro unless they’re going to take a whack at his salary, which is definitely a “face” issue.

    So I don’t see him coming back; he could easily get a decent deal in Japan for a year, get to do his swan song there, gets away from an organization that clearly isn’t going to be contending anytime soon and in which he no longer fits, and nobody looks bad or loses face.

  33. kinickers77 on June 19th, 2012 3:40 pm

    I think Dave’s last paragraph holds the key:

    “…he’s still one of the best players in franchise history, and the Mariners can’t afford to keep having those guys end their careers in Seattle on a bad note.”

    If he’s amenable to a trade, great – could probably figure something out.

    But a trade is unlikely. And since Ichiro was a star for years and the face of the franchise, he’s also become somewhat of a diva. Divas usually get their way.

    My prediction: In order to save PR and please Ichiro, ownership will trump all decisions and let Ichiro play a typical full-time starter amount of games no matter if he sucks. It may not be the best for player development but they won’t care; it’s more about fan and Ichiro moral to them.

  34. currcoug on June 19th, 2012 3:53 pm

    “They aren’t in much of a prime, if this is their prime.”

    I imagine you would have said the same thing about Morse and LaHair…and even Saunders?

    I view Wells as a valuable OF, with good right hand power. Let’s hope he stays hot.

    “Why would they bring Ichiro back in 2013 if they wouldn’t want to play him everyday for the rest of 2012, in preference to Carp and Wells?”

    It will be interesting watching this play out. I agree with your logic…but where Ichiro and Junior are concerned, I am not certain the Mariners are committed to logic.

  35. eponymous coward on June 19th, 2012 3:57 pm

    Incidentally…

    If Ichiro wants to finish out the season on a contending team, that might be the best outcome for everyone, avoiding any potential ugliness if he ends up finishing his Mariner career as a part-time player.

    Why would a contending team that’s actually trying to win games play Ichiro every day, if a really bad team shouldn’t play him every day, in order to evaluate two guys (Carp and Wells) who would be “part time players on a winning club” (in other words, they aren’t very good players)?

    I think the premise that somehow Mystery MLB Team X is going to think that Ichiro deserves more ABs in their uniform than Seattle would give him isn’t clear. If anything, Seattle, home of where fly balls go to die, is the kind of place where you can justify having someone whose contributions are all speed/singles/OF defense.

    In other words, the rest of the league is going to basically be Dave Samson- “that’s nice he’s available, and he might be a decent bench pickup”. Is that really going to be attractive to Ichiro, being a bench player/spectator on another team’s playoff drive?

    (The calculus is different in Japan for obvious reasons-which is why I think he’ll end his career there, not here.)

    I imagine you would have said the same thing about Morse and LaHair…and even Saunders?

    Bad organizations are the ones that try and get lucky on marginal talent. Yes, you can draw to an inside straight on players. Is it worth having another cringe-inducing departure of a veteran to give two marginal players maybe 200 extra plate appearances? I don’t think so.

  36. eternal on June 19th, 2012 4:20 pm

    I see everybody talking about how he should be treated with respect like he’s a terrible player. He isn’t. He is already worth 1.7 WAR this year. He could end up being a 3 WAR player for the year. That is worth something. He isn’t Mike Sweeney or Olivo. And the contract wasn’t terrible either. If he finishes as a 3 WAR player, which should be doable, then we’re talking about 4.5 million/WAR.

    I do think it might make sense to curtail his playing (which will obviously affect his WAR) but a little tired about how people are saying he isn’t an everyday player like there are so many obvious replacements for this or that he is way overpaid. He isn’t.

  37. mca on June 19th, 2012 4:22 pm

    The only place I can imagine Ichiro going is LA, as he spends alot of time there in the off season. I can’t imagine him going to a division rival. What does the Dodgers’ outfield look like? Obviously Kemp is due to be off the DL soon, but Ichiro would be an upgrade over what they’re getting from outfielders (other than Ethier) that are getting significant time this year (Gwynn especially). What kind of projections are there for guys like Castellanos? Is that somebody who the Dodgers want to give at bats to? If I were the Dodgers, I’d feel like Ichiro could add something in a year making a run for the WS title. I personally would instantly become a fan.

  38. Rick L on June 19th, 2012 4:34 pm

    What about playing Carp at first base against right handed pitchers? He and Smoak have similar numbers in OBP and OPS, a little better OBP, a little worse in OPS.

  39. thurston24 on June 19th, 2012 4:40 pm

    I would think that it best that they sit down with Ichiro and be candid with him. Something like “Ichiro, you have been a wonderful player for many years and have honored this team with your professionalism and play. We are a team in transition that needs to play our younger players more to ready for the future. Given our lack of competitiveness and that much of our young talent is in the outfield, we need to give them more playing time and give you a little less. We can play you about x games a week or try to trade you to another team who is competitive. What would you like to do?

    Any reasonable person couldn’t get mad at that could they? Especially, when you talk about honor and commitment and good of the team to a Japanese player. Honor and betterment for the collective is very important in asian culture.

  40. Mekias on June 19th, 2012 4:54 pm

    What I’m struggling with is why exactly he’s declined so much. Usually the player loses a step or a bit of bat speed. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Ichiro (at least to my eye). Is he losing his incredible hand-eye coordination? Is the daily grind of playing every day finally catching up to him? Or has he tinkered with his approach too much and can’t find his way back to his old form?

    If Ichiro is just getting tired more often, this solution works out great. He sits versus some lefties and stays fresher. If it’s hand-eye coordination, not much can be done. If his swing and approach is causing the problem, I’m not sure who can help him. As far as I know, Ichiro does his own thing and doesn’t work with the coaches.

    Any other ideas as to this collapse? I’m feeling a bit sad as I watch what’s likely to be his final season.

  41. Kazinski on June 19th, 2012 5:04 pm

    I am not sure Ichiro can’t turn it around, and I am glad he’s got a month to do so on Carp’s rehab scenario. Its not like Ichiro’s contact rate or speed have gone down, and I can’t see any other age related skill that is causing his ground ball rate to decline, so I don’t think his situation his hopeless. But he has to show results.

    On the other hand I don’t know why people are assuming Wells can’t be an everyday outfielder. The defense is there and he has career .802 OPS in over 400PA, and that includes a slight reverse platoon split against RH with a .811 OPS in 202 PA. Those of course are not huge sample sizes, but they are well out of the too small to consider range. Wells strikes out a lot, but the production has been there. Everything I’ve seen from Wells so far he looks like our Rightfielder of the future.

    On the other hand Gutierrez has a career .647 OPS in 1777 PA against right handed pitching. That tells us all we need to know. So if someone needs to sit sometimes so Carp can play against right handed pitching, it should be Gutierrez.

  42. gerrythek on June 19th, 2012 5:29 pm

    As much as we would like to see the best theoretical team on the field, baseball is first and foremost a business. On the days that Felix isn’t pitching and Ichiro isn’t playing, what do you think would be the effect on an already dwindling attendance?

    If, for example, the team has a 10% better chance of winning with a non-playing Ichiro, would this lead to a bump in attendance? I don’t think so. Yes, a winning and contending team will draw fans but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here.

    Go to a game and see who people are taking pictures of. I guarantee it’s not Wells, Carp, Jaso or Gutirrez.

  43. StorminGorman on June 19th, 2012 5:35 pm

    What to do with Ichiro… Given his results from last season, and the uncertainty that comes with any marquee player in the last year of a high-dollar contract, there had better be a detailed contingency plan inside a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” cabinet in the Mariner offices:

    • If, on such-and-such date, Ichiro is hitting .340 and driving the ball all over the place, then we do A.
    • If, on such-and-such date, Ichiro is hitting .340 and slapping singles, we do B.

    And so on through the alphabet, covering every imaginable scenario from a trade request to a retirement note tacked up in a cleared-out locker.

    Furthermore, I hope this binder includes the signatures of Howard, Chuck, and Jack Z. I can deal with 22-year-old players getting caught off the bag (again). But man, I’m tired of executives with differing agendas, and in particular a club president with a heavy-handed approach to player personnel decisions.

  44. Westside guy on June 19th, 2012 5:41 pm

    On the other hand Gutierrez has a career .647 OPS in 1777 PA against right handed pitching. That tells us all we need to know.

    Franklin Gutierrez is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Wells, on the other hand, appears to be an average-ish corner outfielder – even though he’s looked decent here, which may say something about who he’s being compared with *COUGH*Carp*COUGH*

    You need to evaluate the whole player before making playing time decisions.

  45. djw on June 19th, 2012 5:50 pm

    “I see everybody talking about how he should be treated with respect like he’s a terrible player. He isn’t. He is already worth 1.7 WAR this year.”

    His WAR is due almost entirely to the outsized defensive numbers. Those are simply unstable over the short term, or even one season. Looking at Ichiro’s trajectory, he should be worth somewhere between 5-10 runs above average over 150 games going forward.

  46. samregens on June 19th, 2012 6:23 pm

    Ichiro has looked great on defense and the numbers back that up.
    Disregarding that contribution is strange.

  47. Mariners35 on June 19th, 2012 6:24 pm

    Rick has the right idea above. Carp can get playing time from Smoak (especially at home… Safeco Field hasn’t gotten into Carp’s head… ) DH Ichiro and let Wells, Saunders and Guti have the outfield time.

  48. vetted_coach on June 19th, 2012 6:34 pm

    I disagree with most of the posts that dismiss Wells as a platoon player with average defensive skills. The franchise will treat him as such, I am sure, but they will be wrong in their evaluation. At 27, Wells is a better than average corner outfielder with better than average speed and a strong, accurate arm. He would be suited perfectly well to hit against right handed pitchers. I’m projecting him as perfectly adequate to play right field on a somewhat regular basis. Again, however, I don’t expect many to agree, and I do expect management to treat him as a part-time player. It wouldn’t be the first time I was correct about a player, and it wouldn’t be the first time management has been wrong.

    As for Ichiro, I’m sure he will continue to play in Seattle on a full time basis, perhaps with an extra day off here and there. It’s more likely he will be re-signed than it is he will be traded. If that it is the case (extended and not traded), my opinion is that the franchise will have somewhat retarded it’s progress.

    As for Wells, I think he’s another Raul Ibanez waiting too happen. But much better defensively.

  49. samregens on June 19th, 2012 6:40 pm

    As many posters have noted above, Ichiro’s case is completely different from old Griffey, Sweeney, etc.

    I don’t like how the mistaken premise is taken that he’s some washed-up veteran, and the only discussion is on the method of how to quietly take him behind the shed to put him to sleep.
    This is misguided. Ichiro has been contributing on the team (1.7 WAR is one of the best on the Mariners) and that’s with him hitting the worse in his career after being jerked around from his typical spot in the lineup and having had to change approaches. With his track record of high success, I can see a lot of room and probability for him to increase his value further.

    On that topic, Dave wrote: “there’s no question that his attempt to adapt to the #3 spot in the line-up changed his approach at the plate, and not for the better.”

    And it would be terrible if management undermined his performance in this way, and then said, OK your approach got messed up and so we’re kicking you out. (First of all, it was a ridiculous idea to force one of the best players on the team to change his game to accomodate Figgins). This is not done for one of the best players in franchise history.
    Ichiro obviously did his best, and I’m actually amazed how a 38 year old could radically change his approach over the offseason. Only a guy like Ichiro could do it.
    Getting away from the groundballs turned out not to be good, but if management doesn’t give Ichiro at least until the end of the season to change his style back, this would be one of the worst moves in the history of a team which has made many bad ones.

  50. Paul B on June 19th, 2012 6:40 pm

    Have Carp battle Smoak for playing time at first. Problem solved.

  51. samregens on June 19th, 2012 6:42 pm

    “Is seeing if Mike Carp or Casper Wells is going to beat their odds of being more than a bit player at the MLB level worth publicly dissing your HOF OFer? Probably not.”

    Well said, eponymous coward.

  52. samregens on June 19th, 2012 6:53 pm

    “What I’m struggling with is why exactly he’s declined so much. Usually the player loses a step or a bit of bat speed. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Ichiro (at least to my eye).”

    That’s a great point. It is just the approach in my opinion.
    Ichiro has not lost that ability (at least not yet) which made him a sure lock Hall of Famer.
    He has looked phenomenal on defense and his contact skills appear to be as good as ever.

    I think Ichiro needs to be given full playing time to show what he has. After jerking him around in the lineup to accommodate mediocre players this is the least management must do. And this is for maximizing their chances to win also. I would bet more on a proved ~4-5 win player who has not visibly largely declined in skills, recovering enough of his performance in his usual position, than bit-type 28 year olds finally somehow striking it rich.

    Ichiro of all players deserves as much.

  53. FredBrack on June 19th, 2012 7:21 pm

    Brilliant, thorough analysis, Dave, with attention paid to the complexity of the situation. Nice to see a Mariner blogger who can sing more than one note.

  54. Kazinski on June 19th, 2012 8:46 pm

    I agree Ichiro should still have an opportunity to turn it around, but to ascribe all his problems to moving around in the batting order this year is to completely ignore last year. Last year they kept Ichiro in the one hole the entire season and he didn’t perform. At some point, and we are not there yet, a change needs to be made. And it won’t be the Mariners fault if Ichiro doesn’t perform.

    The Mariners at this point have to put the players on the field that are performing offensively, without totally screwing the pooch defensively. It that means Saunders and Wells playing everyday, and Carp, Ichiro, and Gutierrez sharing between on of the OF positions, 1B, and DH then that is how it needs to be. And that also includes Smoak’s time at 1st, if Carp is hitting well enough to justify the ABs.

  55. samregens on June 19th, 2012 9:26 pm

    – Wells playing everyday –

    No way does Wells deserve to be playing everyday with Ichiro being benched.

    You bring up 2011, and I agree it was a bad year for Ichiro, but it was an off year for him all around, not just on offense but defensively also (some ascribe it to understandable psychological effects from the terrible disaster in his home country last year).

    Even as a fan in 2011 I was worried about Ichiro’s future, especially because his defense was off. But now, I’m inclined to view 2011 as an aberration, because this year, asides from just the –results– in batting because he’s changed from the groundball approach for the worse, as Dave pointed out,
    in physical performance he looks like the Ichiro of old, showing great defense while his basic batting skills still seem there.

    2012 looks to me to be driven by a bad approach change necessitated by an understandable but bad mandate from management. I think the team has to give Ichiro some time to go back to his leadoff approach where he has undisputed excellent results for a full freaking decade from 2001 to 2010.

  56. Lauren, token chick on June 19th, 2012 11:08 pm

    Ichiro tonight: “I AM NOT DONE TAKE THAT”

  57. myohmysalami and rye on June 19th, 2012 11:18 pm

    I am a long time Mariners fan who lives in Japan. It is interesting to see how the local media in Japan report on Ichiro’s future.

    Shortly before the start of the 2012 season, owner Hiroshi Yamauchi declared that Ichiro has “Zaishoku kikan” which translates to mean “Lifetime Tenure”. In other words, as long as Ichiro wants to play in Seattle, he can and he will.

    Don’t get your hopes up that he will pull a Johjima / Sasaki and return to Japan to finish out his career. Ichiro is a very proud man who wants to reach career milestones and stay in America’s Major League.

    He’s not going anywhere, and yes Chicken Little, he will turn it around.

  58. Kazinski on June 19th, 2012 11:31 pm

    The lesson I would take from Ichiro’s performance tonight is he needs at least a day off a week. That solves a couple of problems, it gives a 38 year old player some rest, and it opens up a day of PT for one of the younger players. I was surprised to hear on the broadcast that yesterday was Ichiro’s second day off of the season, he should be sitting about 4 days a month. That’ll cost him any chance at 200 hits, but he wasn’t going to get that anyway the way he was going. And it may keep him in the MLB.

  59. Adam S on June 20th, 2012 12:15 am

    My sense is Ichiro sits down with himself in October and thinks about what he wants to do next year. But with free agency pending and him rapidly approaching replacement level — throw out the WAR, it’s based on him being +33 fielding runs over the season — he and the Mariners need to talk about his future now.

    If the Mariners don’t want to bring Ichiro back for 2013, which seems somewhat likely, and Ichiro wants to play, it’s just silly to hang on to him just to let him go. If Ichiro is going to retire, then there’s a lot of merit to letting him be a career Mariner. I really think the team would do him a favor to trade him to a contender and give him a shot at the playoffs.

  60. ck on June 20th, 2012 12:39 am

    Ichiro had four hits tonight. Of the 800 – odd MLB players now on a MLB roster, what percentage of them have had four hits and a sac fly in the same game? Ichiro probably will benefit from more days off; and the M’s will benefit from more days of Ichiro have five good ab’s…

  61. Gibbo on June 20th, 2012 1:02 am

    I believe if we ate most of his contract there would be a decent market for hm. He is thyet yep of guy that on the right stage would perform. Look at tonight, everyone is writing him off and that it is time to hang it up, part ways etc. he turns around and has a great night. Personally if I am a GM making a run at the playoffs and he is available, I want him on my team….He has a temperament for performance on the big stage.

    Haha, maybe that’s why I am not a GM

  62. vj on June 20th, 2012 4:02 am

    What happened since this was written?

    http://www.ussmariner.com/2012/05/08/ichiro-being-ichiro-2/

    Looking at Ichiro’s splits over at fangraphs, this might be it:
    BABIP March/April: .305
    BABIP May: .273
    BABIP June: .224

  63. Plim on June 20th, 2012 4:51 am

    Has ownership changed? No? OK…. So, Ichiro isn’t going anywhere. More likely than not ownership will give him two years or more at quite a bit more than he is worth in order to have him go for 3K hits as a Mariner. No way THIS ownership group does anything to make Ichiro lose face back home in Japan.

    People can be mad or just accept there are other forces/issues in play beyond what happens on the field.

    So for me the real question is how much should this team consider paying him? If he ends up as a 3 WAR player then it could get a bit expensive.

  64. raul_podzednick on June 20th, 2012 9:16 am

    It’s not that Ichiro is done now, it’s that he will not be that productive in 2 years when this young crop is in it’s prime. I don’t want to just dump him, but if he can net a decent return sending him somewhere he can have a shot at a ring I am all for it.

  65. eponymous coward on June 20th, 2012 10:52 am

    I believe if we ate most of his contract there would be a decent market for hm.

    You mean like there’s been for Figgins?

    Yeah, I know, Ichiro is a considerably better player than Figgins. But if the assumption is “Wells and Carp are basically the same level of talent Ichiro is, except they are younger and under team control, so they should be in the lineup for a team that’s doing their annual implosion into irrelevancy”… well, you’re talking about a 2 month rental of a guy who’s OPS’ing .607 over the past month. Are we really sure there’s an actual market for him, where he’d play every day? Or would he be sitting on a bench for a better team most of the time? In which case, why accept the trade?

    Before we all say “but there’s a chance of a ring involved…”, maybe his motivation isn’t to sit on a bench on a good team. Maybe it’s to play. Maybe it’s even… play in Seattle where he signed his deal and has 10&5 rights.

    This goes back to Dave’s point of “So, it’s not nearly as simple as just saying ‘ship him to a contender’”.

    It’s not that Ichiro is done now, it’s that he will not be that productive in 2 years when this young crop is in it’s prime.

    Ichiro’s contract expires at the end of this year, so if he’s on the roster in 2014, it’s because the team signed him to a new deal. I don’t see this happening- the team’s probably not in a position where they can pay Ichiro an 8 digit salary to be approximately equal in value to Wells, Carp or Guti. This team doesn’t need a bunch of role players covering the OF because they have enough of them under contract next year between everyone I just mentioned; they need everyday players, because Wells/Carp/Guti probably aren’t enough (and probably someone at 1B/DH too, because unless Smoak’s going to catch fire in the second half, he’ll be 26 and a below-average talent at 1B next year). If Ichiro isn’t an everyday player any more as far as the M’s are concerned, he doesn’t fit on a team that has less than 50 million in salary to spend on players not named Felix, Chone or Guti. It’s not like the fans are coming out to the ballpark to see Ichiro on a bad team now; I don’t see it hurting the team at the gate if he’s back in Japan in 2013.

  66. currcoug on June 20th, 2012 11:02 am

    “Bad organizations are the ones that try and get lucky on marginal talent. Yes, you can draw to an inside straight on players. Is it worth having another cringe-inducing departure of a veteran to give two marginal players maybe 200 extra plate appearances? I don’t think so.”

    …and that is where we disagree. Wells is not a “marginal” player. In fact, he is clearly more talented than Morse and Lahair. Moreover, his career SLG of .470 in 372 AB’s is certainly something the Mariners desperately need, particularly from the right side.

    It is a small sample size, but Wells hits pretty well at Safeco, pardon the pun.

    I also don’t think the Nationals and Cubs are bad organizations.

  67. mca on June 20th, 2012 11:31 am

    This made it 60 comments without anyone mentioning Japanese ownership. I wish it had gone on longer, but, alas, it did not. I don’t mean this as an attack on Plim, but rather than perpetuation of the idea, rampant in places outside of USSM, that Japanese ownership meddles in anything related to Ichiro.
    There is no evidence whatsoever that Ichiro has ever been given special treatment because of his nationality. The only suggestion that they have ever given any preference to a Japanese player is Johjima’s admittedly bad contract, but even this doesn’t look so bad after watching years of Rob Johnson and Miguel Olivo. I wish there had been some interference when Johjima lost playing time to the far inferior Johnson, but somehow that happened even with ownership being who it is. Ownership has not overbid on any of the potentially great pitchers coming out of Japan, and they clearly haven’t done anything about Wedge’s underuse of Iwakuma. Ichiro did get a big contract, but even with the big dollars, he was underpaid for many of the years of the contract (not to mention the exceedingly cheap wins they got out of him before that contract). If Ichiro is indeed fully in decline, the Mariners will have a delicate situation with many issues, but nationality is not a big one.
    Ichiro has been the face of this franchise for longer than any player other than Ken Griffey Jr.(Edgar’s best years were almost all while Griffey was the Mariners’ face). How often does a player with iconic status in a city get unceremoniously dumped? There might be an argument for Jordan- Pippen in Chicago, and that did not turn out well for the Bulls. In the NFL, there’s Brett Favre, but he mostly brought it upon himself, and there was a budding superstar waiting behind him. I don’t think even the biggest fan believes Casper Wells has elite potential. I can’t think of any examples in baseball (okay, the Griffey thing didn’t go so well). Let’s please ask questions about how a team handles a star in decline, but not about how they handle a Japanese star in decline. There is too much inherent xenophobia.

  68. currcoug on June 20th, 2012 11:56 am

    I know it won’t play here, but you might want to read Thiel’s book.

  69. eponymous coward on June 20th, 2012 12:08 pm

    I also don’t think the Nationals and Cubs are bad organizations.

    The Nationals might not be too bad, but the Cubs have been a joke for a pretty long time.

    And I’m not talking about putting Carp and/or Wells on the waiver wire and losing the ability to play them in 2013 (which is what we did with Morse and Lahair- give them away to other organizations), so we can play Ichiro every inning for the rest of the year, since we don’t have to do this- the problem of having too many fourth OFers goes away once Ichiro’s contract expires at the end of the year.

    I’m suggesting that we’re talking about (at most) couple hundred plate appearances of evaluation in a lost season of a couple of marginal players (Wellls and Carp), and giving Ichiro a Griffey or Figgins-style benching for his last few weeks under contract to do that isn’t worth it if we end up with Ichiro doing what Griffey or Figgins did when they were mishandled- blowing up the clubhouse and giving the organization another embarrassing self-inflicted injury. I don’t think he’d do that quite the same way, but maybe he’d just head back to Japan.

    Oh, and all this fretting about roster problems when Carp comes back assumes that Guti doesn’t hit like he did for his last 600 PAs or so (which basically makes him the same kind of offensive drag on things as Ichiro is when he has a bad month, where you should arguably be benching him a lot), and nobody gets injured (out the group of Guti, Smoak, Carp, Saunders, Wells and Ichiro, the only one who’s not had a significant injury in the last year or so is Ichiro).

  70. currcoug on June 20th, 2012 1:06 pm

    Well stated, Ep.

  71. samregens on June 20th, 2012 4:35 pm

    What a great post, mca.
    You write very persuasively about the lack of proof of any “Japanese ownership over-meddling”, in contrast to the cheap innuendo dished out by some people and reporters in the media with apparent axes to grind.

    Personally I wish the ownership had intervened more in cases like the lousy Rob Johnson getting too much playing time while Johjima was pushed out, etc. (Looking back, I think Johjima was in aggregate a better catcher than anything we’ve had since).
    Iwakuma has been treated terribly, although he had higher offers and took a lower salary to play here.

    The ownership’s track record is actually pretty good. Any Japanese regular player who they happened to acquire (Kaz, Ichiro, Shiggy, Johjima) has performed well, or at least looking at their whole time here, above their total cost.
    And they have avoided overbidding/overpaying on Igawa (Irabu), Matsuzaka, Kuroda, Nishizawa, Darvish, etc. Although Kuroda and Darvish have performed pretty well also so far.
    How about that Japanese Yankee and Red Sox ownership?

  72. goat on June 21st, 2012 11:40 am

    I’ve been looking forward to this post since it was hinted at (haven’t been able to get online for a few days). I completely agree with everything you said here before Carp returns. I agree with others that maybe Carp gets more AB at 1B when he gets back. Smoak has been bad, and still has options. I think the only way to even make room for Carp on the roster is to demote Smoak or get rid of Olivo (assuming none of the outfielders are going anywhere). Getting rid of Figgins won’t do it, because then you only have one bench player to backup the infield.

  73. goat on June 21st, 2012 12:33 pm

    I doubt that Ichiro gets traded, but if he does two contenders that might be interested are the Pirates and the Reds. The Reds are in win now mode, and are a bit light in the outfield, particularly for lefthanders. The Pirates are doing surprising well, and could definitely use a veteran outfielder. I don’t know if Ichiro would accept a trade to either of them, but those seem to me like the two contenders most likely to be interested in giving him significant playing time.

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