Dave · July 18, 2012 at 11:09 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Sorry for not writing here much for the last couple of weeks, but our 11 day trip to the Northwest was a much needed break, and my wife and I enjoyed just getting away for a while. Thanks to Seattle and Victoria for the fantastic weather while we were in town, and to Felix for being amazing on Saturday night. I’ve been playing catchup for the last few days since getting back to the oppressive heat and humidity of the east coast, but figured it’s probably time to talk about Ichiro again.

Yesterday, Jay Buhner made it clear what he thinks about the team giving Ichiro a multi-year extension, using language that might get him uninvited from spring training next year. And, over at FanGraphs, Michael Barr tackled the idea of honoring Ichiro by not letting him create more unpleasant memories beyond this season. While Ichiro has always been somewhat of a polarizing figure, it appears to me that there’s something of a consensus forming among those who follow this team closely – no one really wants Ichiro back next year.

And yes, I’m in that group too. I’ve defended Ichiro for years against unfounded criticisms about his skillset, his personality, and attitudes that are more about cultural differences than anything else, but it’s impossible to ignore the reality that Ichiro just isn’t a very good player anymore. He showed some signs of life early in the season, but he’s been an absolute disaster for the last couple of months, and even his speed and defense don’t offset the nothing offensive player he’s become.

Even giving him full credit for his defense, Ichiro’s at +1.8 WAR over 1,119 plate appearances in the last two seasons, which makes him about as valuable as Willie Bloomquist. In fact, there’s not a lot of differences between Ichiro and Willie anymore, and based on overall ability to contribute to a contender, they’re about equally useful. If you were building a contender with no regards to ego or salary, you might be fine with having both as part-time guys, but if you’re a rebuilding team, you’re looking for something else entirely. From a performance perspective, the Mariners should be no more interested in giving Ichiro a starting job next year than they would be giving one to Bloomquist.

Ichiro had a great career in Seattle. As Jack said the other day, he is a franchise icon. But, the reality is that he has nothing left to offer the Mariners, and the organization shouldn’t be a charity for players who want to keep on playing well past the time when they’re useful on-field performers. The team already went through the painful end with Ken Griffey Jr in 2010, and should not be in any kind of hurry to repeat that situation.

Yes, there are dynamics in play with the ownership and Ichiro’s desire to hit some milestones in America, such as getting to 3,000 hits. It’s probably not as easy as just telling him thanks for the great years and moving on. But, regardless of the politics, that’s exactly what the Mariners need to do. They don’t employ Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, or Dan Wilson in an on-field capacity anymore, because while they’re beloved franchise heros, they aren’t capable of helping the team win. The organization needs to begin to view Ichiro in that same light.

If he wants to keep playing in the US, tell him you’ll have no hard feelings watching him in another uniform, and wish him luck getting to play for a contender. If he wants to go back to Japan and finish his career there, have a huge party that celebrates Ichiro’s accomplishments as a Mariner and puts the spotlight back on his productive years as a vital cog on some really good teams. But if he wants to open 2013 as a member of the Mariners 25 man roster, the answer should be “I’m sorry, but that opportunity isn’t available.”

Ichiro was a great player, but at this point in his career, it’s time for the organization to begin to look for his replacement. They have to do what’s in the best interests of the Mariners. And in this case, those interests are best served by concluding his career in Seattle in 2012.


87 Responses to “Ichiro”

  1. TherzAlwaysHope on July 18th, 2012 11:17 am

    I was out of the country when I heard about this “Ichiro guy” and “the throw.” I watched a replay and was dumbfounded.

    But we are past that. Now, I can only say, “What he said.”

  2. NorthofWrigleyField on July 18th, 2012 11:19 am

    Isn’t there a role and a price point that would make sense for him and the Mariners, if he’d accept it? Would there be so much vitriol if he were batting 8th or 9th rather than 1st, 2nd or 3rd?

    It’s not like the Mariners are that flush with options in the OF that they can afford to disrespect the only every day player cheered for by the fans they haven’t already jaded.

    If they’re not going to bring him back in 2013, shouldn’t they work to trade him to a contender now, even if they have to eat most of his salary and accept little in return, so that he can get another chance at a World Series?

  3. maqman on July 18th, 2012 11:20 am

    Sad but true.

  4. wilchiro on July 18th, 2012 11:25 am

    I see no harm in bringing him back on a $5 or $6 million contract next season on a one year deal, but nothing more. Ichiro has meant a lot to the franchise but he is no longer a part of the team’s long term plans.

    It’s really too bad to see another Mariner legend come and go without a Championship to show for it.

  5. josiah on July 18th, 2012 11:25 am

    I agree with North. If Ichiro was back for around 4M for a year with reevaluation every year he stays, then I would like to see him as our 4th outfielder.

    Saunders, Guti, and Wells are the outfielders I want to see the most next year, but with Guti’s health issues and all of them not having long term success, Ichiro would be a good backup.

    Ichiro seems to be doing alright against righties still, so some of his days could be when Wells or Guti are given days off against righties.

  6. RaoulDuke37 on July 18th, 2012 11:26 am

    Aw crap. They’re going to bring back Wiily Grit now.

  7. Sportszilla on July 18th, 2012 11:26 am

    NorthofWrigleyField: I can’t speak for everyone, but this Mariners fan would like to see what a Saunders/Wells/Gutierrez outfield looks like. Granted, there’s plenty of injury/regression risk there, and you’d need to carry at least one more outfielder who could play regularly, but it’s hard to understand assigning any significant playing time to a player at the very tail end of their (spectacular) career.

  8. henryv on July 18th, 2012 11:27 am

    I have no problem bringing Ichiro back, but I can’t see him wanting to come back for something like $5M a year for 1-2 years. He is a good defensive replacement, a good pinch running candidate, and a potential replacement for Guti when he gets hit by bird poop and hurts himself (Gee, who said this to me?), or when facing a dominant right-hander that you don’t want Casper Wells to face.

  9. The_Waco_Kid on July 18th, 2012 11:27 am

    As you say, most of us agree on this. What do you expect to happen?

  10. BillyJive on July 18th, 2012 11:28 am

    It was great watching Ichiro take batting practice on Saturday. Makes me wonder why he never signed up for the home run derby at any of the all-star games…

  11. Glen on July 18th, 2012 11:28 am

    The problem with bringing Ichiro back, even for only $5 or $6 MM a year, is that Ichiro will force the hand of Wedge to play everyday.

    I would rather see Saunders or Wells in RF (assuming Guti’s concussion symptoms subside) everyday than trotting Ichiro out everyday.

  12. The_Waco_Kid on July 18th, 2012 11:31 am

    I also get the feeling he wouldn’t want to be a 4th OF even if we made it clear that’s all he’d be.

  13. henryv on July 18th, 2012 11:32 am

    “Hand of Wedge”.

    Not quite hand of God.

    “Mustache of Wedge” would be more powerful.

  14. Liam on July 18th, 2012 11:35 am

    Jack Zduriencik should resign if ownership gives Ichiro a multi-year extension.

  15. henryv on July 18th, 2012 11:37 am

    I also get the feeling he wouldn’t want to be a 4th OF even if we made it clear that’s all he’d be.

    More than likely I’d see him as the 3rd OF against RHP, and a 4th against LHP.

    With Guti and Wells, you have two RH OF, with Guti having a HUGE platoon split.

    And what you have in AAA is probably not better than Ichiro, at least for another year.

  16. sjudy on July 18th, 2012 11:39 am

    I love Ichiro! as much as Dave does but I agree, it’s time to move on. He’d make a great trade candidate at the deadline.
    For everyone calling for Wells, he’s a 4th outfielder. Remember when he got sent to Tacoma?
    We need a new face of the franchise. It’s supposed to be Ackley but his struggles are causing fan-faith issues. At this point, go get J. Upton. He’d help smooth things over the way Cameron did post-Griffey.

  17. Adam B. on July 18th, 2012 11:44 am

    The only issue I have with bringing Ichiro back for a limited role and a limited salary is would he be okay with that role? Or would he just say he was okay with that role ala Griffey… Not that Griffey and Ichiro are the same person/personality, but I could see it being a tough pill to swallow for a formerly elite player, and I think it might just be best for all parties involved to have a clean seperation.

  18. josiah on July 18th, 2012 11:44 am

    “For everyone calling for Wells, he’s a 4th outfielder. Remember when he got sent to Tacoma?”

    Remember when Wells had vertigo at the end of last year? Remember when Wells was not getting consistent playing time because of Figgins? Remember when Wells was given a shot at consistent playing time and proved he can be a good major league player?

  19. henryv on July 18th, 2012 11:45 am

    I don’t think Justin Upton is the “type of person” the M’s would likely trade for, especially as the big piece in a big deal.

    Could be wrong, it just doesn’t seem like the thing that this organization does, generally.

  20. _David_ on July 18th, 2012 11:46 am

    At least offer him the fourth outfielder job, if Wells, Saunders and Guti remain the projected starters for next year, as insurance, because all three of those players are capable of massive collapse.

  21. NorthofWrigleyField on July 18th, 2012 11:47 am

    Even if you have an OF of Gutierrez, Wells, Saunders. Who’s your 4th OF? Isn’t there a lot of room to get Ichiro ABs there and at DH, since nobody has stepped up to take that definitively either?

    Will you rage if they brought him back as a platoon OF to bat lower in the order for even $8-10M they weren’t going to spend on anybody else anyway?

    I’d rather the Mariners sign him than just pocket the money. It’s a mausoleum in Safeco Field right now when Ichiro’s not at bat and/or Felix isn’t on the mound.

    This caveat as always applies: In Jack We Trust.

  22. Dave on July 18th, 2012 11:50 am

    It seems like the disconnect is in thinking that the Mariners should let Ichiro go and then not bring in another OF. I’m not supporting the team going with Wells/Saunders/Guti next year – I think the team should bring in a legitimate everyday outfielder to replace Ichiro, and make Wells/Guti/Saunders split two positions.

    It’s not an Ichiro or nobody question. It’s an Ichiro or somebody else question. And the answer should be somebody else.

  23. josiah on July 18th, 2012 11:55 am

    I think 8 would be too much. Overpaying him a little based on his history is fine, but not by that much.

    Even Griffey, who was bigger than Ichiro has ever been, only got 2.5 his last year here.

  24. Liam on July 18th, 2012 11:57 am

    He’d make a great trade candidate at the deadline.

    As a 10 and 5 player, Ichiro can veto any trade. That along with his salary, hitting and value to the Mariners make him a poor trade candidate.

  25. CCW on July 18th, 2012 12:00 pm

    I don’t think there’s any way the M’s bring him back. Jack Z is merely trying to be respectful of his legacy. It would be rude for the organization to announce in the middle of this season that Ichiro isn’t coming back next season, so they won’t do it. And I think that’s fine. If they do bring him back, then let the griping begin, but I really can’t see it.

  26. NorthofWrigleyField on July 18th, 2012 12:00 pm

    …but if no Player X comes through, should they bring him back? You don’t seem to leave room for that at all in above article, especially with the last line.

    I really don’t want the Mariners to bring in a new every day OF in 2013. I want them to let Wells, Saunders and Gutierrez go out there for a full year together and show what they can do with some help from a 4th member who will play less, barring injury. I also think Ackley should get some reps in the OF next season with Stefan Romero and Nick Franklin charging hard.

  27. Dave on July 18th, 2012 12:02 pm

    Counting on Franklin Gutierrez to stay healthy and be an everyday player, at this point, is just wishcasting.

  28. MrZDevotee on July 18th, 2012 12:04 pm

    The “harm” I see in bringing him back at $5-6 million is that you can get the same performance for $1-2 million by replacing him.

    I love Ichiro, and I’ve been a defender for a LONG LONG time. But the sad reality is that even at a huge discount ($5-6 million) we’d have to overpay him to keep him.

    Sadly, it’s time to say goodbye. (And hopefully we’ve learned some lessons about “letting the player decide when he’s done” during our Griffey Returns days.)

  29. BillyJive on July 18th, 2012 12:05 pm

    At the USSMariner event I think Dave mentioned something about an outfielder possibly named Upton that may or may not be available…

  30. SethGrandpa on July 18th, 2012 12:10 pm

    I agree in large part with what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s totally fair to use the combined value of his last 2 season, especially when prefacing it with “even giving him full credit for his defense.” His defense last year was terrible, both by metrics and by the ol’ eye test. This year he’s completely turned that around. I’d say his D last season was awful, but a flukey awful, which distorts the notion of using a 2 year barometer of value.

  31. NorthofWrigleyField on July 18th, 2012 12:11 pm

    But so is limiting Saunders/Wells/Gutierrez to only 2 OF spots and occasional DH work. Expecting them to fail is foolish as well. It would be different if the Mariners were potential contenders next season.

  32. NorthofWrigleyField on July 18th, 2012 12:14 pm

    Even if he doesn’t add any to his fWAR rest of the year (unlikely), it’s unreasonable to expect the team to come up with equal or better for $1-2M on the open market, or by filling from within the organization. He’d be a bargain at $5-6M, even if he declines even more… and that’s not even taking into account how most fans will revolt if Ichiro is gone and they don’t spend that money to replace him with something… and they should.

  33. NorthofWrigleyField on July 18th, 2012 12:15 pm

    …not that the Mariners have many fans left at this point.

  34. Dave on July 18th, 2012 12:16 pm

    Having depth isn’t the same thing as expecting someone to fail. It’s being realistic about the fact that Gutierrez simply can’t be relied upon, and shouldn’t be expected to play regularly. If he does, bonus, you figure it out (assuming everyone else stays healthy and doesn’t suck too). You don’t plan for the 5% chance that everything goes right.

  35. MrZDevotee on July 18th, 2012 12:17 pm

    I will add, however, that if they don’t plan on bringing him back next season, they should definitely let him know now and ask if he’d like to end his career with a chance at the playoffs… ie, would like the team to seek a trade before the deadline.

  36. Paul B on July 18th, 2012 12:20 pm

    Offer Ichiro a AAA contract to be a relief pitcher next year, with a date by which he has to be called up or released.

    That would be so cool.

    I’m almost serious about this. Almost.

  37. ck on July 18th, 2012 12:21 pm

    Ichiro. Ichiro is not an elite player anymore. It is a shame we had to wait so long ( the Nippon posting system ) before he arrived. I suspect nothing will happen with Ichiro until the off-season. No one in Seattle can approach Ichiro to ask him if he would accept a trade, without first getting permission from the Japanese owner to even ask Ichiro that question. Somebody could have a ‘unoffical’ talk with Ichiro this month, but no one in the Seattle management has the courage or capacity. Perhaps we should tell Muneori Kawasaki that he definitely will not be back next year, and let Ichiro take it from there…

  38. _David_ on July 18th, 2012 12:27 pm

    I’m too much of an optimist to think that Saunders or Wells need to be upgraded. As for Guti, I think the Ichiro decision should depend heavily on how well Guti looks at the plate when he does return. I’d like to think he’s not as fragile as he’s made out to be. The internal medical issues seemed to be solved, the other two injuries could’ve been in part due to rustiness owing to the rehab and increase in physical activity. How he hits might suggest whether the concussion will be an issue. If he is able to return and play consistently well for two months, it might make it hard to bring in someone of starter quality who will demand regular playing time. Unless they use an outfield spot as part of a significant upgrade, I’m not worried about Ichiro being the fourth outfielder, if the money is right and he accepts the role. I’d much rather they upgrade at catcher or starting rotation instead, if upgrading in the outfield means giving up too early on Guti.

  39. MrZDevotee on July 18th, 2012 12:28 pm

    I believe WAR at normal costs is $3-4 million, so paying a guy $5-6 million for his .9 WAR per season the past couple seasons is, literally, overpaying, not a bargain.

    Plus, do you really believe Ichiro would sign for $5 million, because I don’t think he would, and paying him $8-9 million would be way too much on a rebuilding team, versus what other toys we could buy with that money.

  40. BillyJive on July 18th, 2012 12:36 pm

    I’m sure an outfield roster of Guti, Wells and Saunders would strike fear in opposing pitchers.

  41. Gibbo on July 18th, 2012 12:40 pm

    I love what Ichiro has done for the M’s, but it’s time to move on. We have some key pieces but we really to add some more experience and quality, let these younger guys scrap for their spots. If you retain Ichiro and he continues to regress and one of Wells, Saunders and Gutierrez struggle or is injured we have another hole in the lineup and this is very likely. This team can’t afford another 90 + loss season. It’s a little dramatic but Z needs to put his foot down here and make the tough call.

  42. Westside guy on July 18th, 2012 12:47 pm

    Guti – I love the guy, but I swear he’s snake bit. If he’d been playing in OT during that game in Oakland, I would’ve been unsurprised had one of the circling seagulls managed to fly into him (injuring Guti’s neck, of course).

    When Guti comes back, I’m hoping Wells gets at least some of the time in RF. I don’t believe it’ll happen, but I’d like to see it.

  43. Gibbo on July 18th, 2012 12:48 pm

    @_David_ in reference to a star like Ichiro when was the last time you heard a GM say we are signing him to be our 4th OF’er? I think it is a team disaster waiting to happen, Ichiro may say yes I will come in and compete and challenge and then management will likely give the Griffey speech, he means so much to the organisation, he can still offer this team so much, he will have everychance to play etc… Then the manager carries the can for it because Ichiro expects to play.

  44. Westside guy on July 18th, 2012 12:49 pm

    BTW Dave – I was glad to see (via one of your tweets) you discovered Paseo’s while you were back in Seattle. They are AMAZING. :-D

  45. shortbus on July 18th, 2012 12:59 pm

    Thanks, Dave, for saying what needed to be said. The more ownership can hear from the different segments of the fan base that we’re ready to move on from the Ichiro era, the better. Listening to talk radio this morning it’s pretty clear the “average fan” is ready. You’ve made it clear here (along with the commenters) that the “stathead” fan is as well.

    Now we just have to hope ownership has the guts to do the right thing here. I hope that if this is Ichiro’s last season the decision is made prior to the end of the year so we can say goodbye properly.

  46. msfanmike on July 18th, 2012 1:18 pm

    I am not sure if I am putting faith in rumor/innuendo – or if I have just heard enough of it to start thinking it’s true. Assuming it is true, the decision regarding Ichiro might boil down to the team owner and Ichiro, only.

    It might be a simple matter of Ichiro still wanting to play and the owner still liking to watch (although not in person) him play. From the perspective of those two people, it might not be a difficult decision at all.

    I like the idea of Guti, Wells, Saunders sharing two spots (ideally with another productive starting OF in the mix). and I think we will see glimpses of it when Guti returns through the rest of the season.

    I will not be surprised to see Ichiro sign a new contract with the Mariners … good, bad or indifferent. This circumstance does not feel like the type of situation whereby the owner is going to defer to team management to make the final decision.

  47. terryoftacoma on July 18th, 2012 1:41 pm

    I’d like to think this decision would be made by the baseball minds in the organization but I don’t think it will play out that way. I think Mike’s probably right. The decision will be made in the off season in Japan and will very much depend on what Ichiro wants to do. If he wants to reach 3,000 hits. He’s going to have to play as a regular for close to 3 years(currenting he has 2,525). I think his pride kicks in and he retires but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him resign. I think we may finally have the answer to the age old question. Is he a professional or is he selfish.

  48. Westside guy on July 18th, 2012 1:54 pm

    I’ve seen very few professional ballplayers know when it was time to quit – so I don’t expect Ichiro to be any different.

    Remember how Junior used to always say “no one will need to tell me when it’s time”? But he, like most ballplayers, thought it was just a slump and he just needed to work through it. The competitiveness and the ability just won’t let most of them admit to themselves that they just can’t play anymore until no one will give them a job.

  49. groundzero55 on July 18th, 2012 1:56 pm

    re: Guti/Wells/Saunders
    If they are healthy and hitting the way they have this season, it’s not the worst outfield in the majors, by a long shot.

    The team owner having such complete control over what the organization does with a player is complete bs. It hamstrings the front office from making the proper moves. It’s like Steinbrenner all over again.

  50. Snuffy on July 18th, 2012 1:57 pm

    Saunders needs to be playing everyday unless he needs a rest or is hurting. He hits LHP rather well and is a strong defender in CF and excellent in LF. Wells needs a break vs some really strong RHP but not very often (he has the arm for RF). Guti is ALWAYS hurt and has problems vs strong RHP. A real power bat (probably LHB) would be nice to play LF but they are hard to find and often do poor defensively. Ichiro! is just no longer of value offensively. I’m betting the Giants would move Angel Pagan at a reasonable price (he’s a switch hitter who hits RHP well). They have a very good OF prospect ready to come up soon. Pagan wouldn’t be better defensively than Saunders and certainly not Guti, but he’s not as bad as he showed with the 2011 Mets either. Pagan would make for a solid 4th outfielder, albeit with modest power.

  51. greentunic on July 18th, 2012 2:03 pm

    Re-signing Ichiro would be a very disturbing move to me. It would symbolize this organization’s tendancy to look backward instead of forward. The team takes so much gripe for always looking to the ’95 season. If they were to sign Ichiro (especially at anything above a $3-4 million), I’d develop that winning was not the top priority.

    I love the franchise as much as anyone, but I’m kinda done with seeing more in the way of old highlight reels than a winning baseball team.

  52. ima-zeliever on July 18th, 2012 2:07 pm

    Spot on, Dave. I hope the Mariner’s FO reads you! If by chance you do have time to write more, I would enjoy you addressing some of the panicky suggestions I am hearing on talk radio…

  53. stevemotivateir on July 18th, 2012 2:39 pm

    Regardless of whether he comes back, I still feel we should acquire at least one more established outfielder. Probably two.

  54. Mariners35 on July 18th, 2012 2:42 pm

    Well said, and respectfully said, Dave. Much better than some of the junk from other blogs and commenters, and certainly better than Jay “Seinfeld punchline” Buhner’s idiocy from the other day.

    Ideally, the M’s would wait until they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs – which should be in what, about 3 weeks from now? – and then coordinate with Ichiro to announce his retirement from MLB as of the end of this season.

    Realistically, it’s possible – and reasonable – to expect that not even Ichiro knows what he wants to do, and he should be given a chance to reconsider in the offseason whether he’d go here at a reduced price, here only for same price, elsewhere for what he feels is reasonable, etc. So it’d be ok if both he and Z deferred on the question until the winter.

    Unfortunately, it won’t be surprising if ownership and/or their representatives Chuck/Howie take the decision out of Z/Wedge’s hands, and extend Ichiro for 3 years, some-$-amount-that-will-please-no-one-no-matter-how-low.

  55. Mid80sRighty on July 18th, 2012 2:46 pm

    Regarding a Saunders/Guti/Wells outfield, I think we’d all like to see them have a full season together. But, if the M’s have a chance to upgrade, why wouldn’t you? Wells is a decent outfielder, and one I think we’d all like to see develop more, but he probably tops out as a 4th outfielder on most teams. And Saunders is probably in the same boat. They’re complimentary players, not bad to have on a team, but you can’t have a team full of them.

    And Westy makes a great point. You can not count on superstars to know when they’re done. The same things that made them great work against them when evaluating themselves.

  56. justinh on July 18th, 2012 2:59 pm

    There is no reason the Mariners should even pay Ichiro $5 million over 1-2 years. I can certainly think of numerous ways the team can look to spend that money elsewhere. Plus, Ichiro would be taking up a roster spot and playing time from someone who may have a future role with the team. If the Mariners were expected to compete next year and Ichiro was good with being a 4th outfielder it maybe worth giving him $2 million on a one year deal,.

    Look, I love Ichiro and will be sad to see him leave, but it is time to cut the cord. Good Lord, spending $10 million on a 2 year deal for Ichiro would just about be it for me. I want the Mariners to win and it is time to put winning ahead of everything else. This team does not need the trouble that has surrounded it with the “what to do with Ichiro” questions. And I’m also through with the “but Ichiro puts fans in the stands” comments as well. It is not like the Mariners are drawing 30,000 fans per game. Winning must supersede everything with this organization and every move should be made with that in mind.

    The club has given Ichiro every benefit of the doubt and numerous chances to regain his form and show what he can do. Unfortunately, even Ichiro is affected by Father Time. Even if Ichiro would play for free, it is just postponing the inevitable, and the club is best served to allow Ichiro to walk away at the end of the season on his own terms. If he chooses to play for another team and some fans become irked the Mariners do not resign him, so be it.

  57. PinedaExpress on July 18th, 2012 3:15 pm

    For a little perspective on Ichiro and what he should be looking for in an extention, Edwin Encarnacion just signed a three year 27 million dollar extention with the Blue Jays. Over the last 1.5 years his combined WAR is 4.7 in that same period Ichiro’s being 1.8 and Encarnacion being 10 years younger. If you’re giving him more than 2M a year, its simply because you value what his off-field (see what the ownership thinks) of him more than what his actual value is.

    I hate to think of the Mariners without Ichiro, I hate the thought more of watching the shell of him out there going forward.

  58. TheMightyMariner on July 18th, 2012 3:17 pm

    Yeah it is time for Ichi to move on. He made way too much money for a leadoff hitter on a team with a strict budget. He isn’t a veteran leader for the kids on the team (totally agree with Buhner’s comment on this topic). The only way you bring him back is if he signs for well under $2 million and is fine with possible being a bench player. I don’t see that happening.

    What I do see happening is the owner insisting we keep Ichiro and give him a lot of money. At the same time he will not be increasing payroll and the Mariners will continue to be a joke franchise.

  59. mrt1212 on July 18th, 2012 3:17 pm

    The worst part about this whole Ichiro thing is that it’s an indictment of just how bad the Mariners are at building a team. Even though he’s lost his competitive edge he’s still the 3rd or 4th best player on the team depending on which metrics you look at.

    Not only that but the Mariners have been effectively a minor league team for almost a decade now. Any good players we have go to better places, we spend about median in the league, and we are consistently the worst team in our division.

    Sometimes I wish OKC took the Mariners instead of the Sonics.

  60. just a fan on July 18th, 2012 3:24 pm

    The M’s should let Ichiro go because OF is one of the two primary positions (along with 1B) to add a bat from outside the organization this offseason.

    Saunders/Gutierrez/Wells is not an OF that can be trusted by itself to help this team contend in 2013, and this team CAN contend in 2013 because they have a lot of money coming off the books this year (even if they lower payroll a bit) and they have a good enough farm system to trade for an impact hitter.

    Saunders/Gutierrez/Wells/GOOD OF is an excellent OF for next season. It’s a shame Ichiro isn’t good anymore.

  61. pinball1973 on July 18th, 2012 3:28 pm

    Well, you guys have a lot going for you, but finally your idea of baseball and mine have simply ended up at odds too often, and the talk is always about a corporate entity called ‘The Mariners’ “winning” when there has been no sign it will do so, save by happy accident.
    If you want to know what is really deep-down wrong about America, especially today, ponder the bottom-line arguments of those who simply dismiss Ichiro out of hand, and those who allow a few tears to fall and wave fondly as they put him on the ice floe.

    There were fun times here! They were a LONG time ago, of course.

    Don’t worry! I won’t let the door hit me on the way out!

  62. jephdood on July 18th, 2012 3:28 pm

    If I remember right, Guti had G.I. issues which now appear to be solved, a pec injury, and was hit in the face on a pick-off. These aren’t chronic-type injuries, so I’m not sure you can or should write him off as unreliable for 2013, right? Would be different if he had bad knees, recurring shoulder problems, etc.

    And I would love to see Wells get a full year. Same with Saunders. Carp can fill in the gaps. I’d rather bring in a FA SS, 1B/DH, and C.

  63. eponymous coward on July 18th, 2012 3:37 pm

    I wouldn’t discount the idea that Ichiro, like Sasaki and Johjima before him, returns to Japan in 2013. So he wouldn’t get 3000 hits in MLB- I could see him bouncing back enough for a year or two (in a lesser league and friendlier ballparks) to get 4000 hits in pro baseball.

  64. ima-zeliever on July 18th, 2012 3:42 pm

    Recent history tells us that Japanese players are a lot different from others. Kazuhiro Sasaki and Kenji Johjima walked away from money in order to retire in an honorable way. If Ichiro’s HoF credentials are set, then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him retire from MLB.

  65. ima-zeliever on July 18th, 2012 3:44 pm

    Hat tip to eponymous… Re: Sasaki and Johjima. Dang, I shouldn’t have confirmed the spelling of their first names. :-)

  66. SonOfZavaras on July 18th, 2012 4:09 pm

    Eponymous and ima-zeliever have already touched on the reasons why, but I’m going to make a prediction here and now:

    Ichiro retires at the end of the year.

    And there’ll be a lot of surprise expressed in the baseball community when he does.

    I think Ichiro knows which way the wind is blowing for him, and has no desire to be anybody’s 4th outfielder in 2013.

  67. raul_podzednick on July 18th, 2012 4:20 pm

    I hope he can be moved to a contender and get a ring and then play a few more seasons and pick up 3000 hits. Just not for the Mariners. This club needs to look to the future

  68. Jon on July 18th, 2012 4:50 pm

    I like Jay Buhner and appreciate the straight-shooter persona he has developed. That being said, it is unfortunate (in my view) that the reaction to his “vomit” comments, especially outside of Mariner fandom, seems more focused on Ichiro than on the M’s brass. To the extent Buhner shares many of the fans’ concerns about the franchise’s lack of direction and he has any frustration, disappontment and/or embarrassment related thereto, I look forward to hearing him say so in a way that doesn’t also come across as a cheap shot at Ichiro.

  69. jordan on July 18th, 2012 4:54 pm

    Ichiro needs to announce his retirement in the near future and go the Chipper Jones route. Sell out a few games at the end of the year, draw crowds at visiting stadiums, etc.

    Pretty much get the attention he deserves for his great career. Sad to say it, but there doesn’t appear to be much left for him here.

  70. MT on July 18th, 2012 4:57 pm

    Is Ichiro really done? Is approximately 1000 at bats enough of a sample? Is bad luck to the extreme not an explanation for his struggles? His BABIP seems crazy low for his historical levels.

    Just two years ago, he seemed fine. He looks the same as he has always looked to me.

    I hope he plays well over the remainder of the season to shut up critics.

  71. mrt1212 on July 18th, 2012 5:11 pm

    I’m curious how Buhner reacted during Griffey’s nap fiasco. I can’t really find much with google given eh myriad false results.

  72. samregens on July 18th, 2012 5:12 pm

    NorthofWrigleyField, pinball1973, and some others have put it well.

    I feel that there is an undercurrent in fan-opinion which seems too eager to write Ichiro off, which I think is created/affected more than everybody realises, by the overall continuous negative campaign against Ichiro carried out by Baker and some talk-radio red-neck idiots.

    Some count on the small sample sizes of Wells and Saunders (I like him a lot by the way) while disregarding Ichiro’s 1.6 WAR so far this season which ranks him as one of the better players on the team.

    Some give Guti the benefit of the doubt for basically being terrible from the latter part of 2010 and 2011, while eagerly counting in Ichiro’s abberant 2011. As NorthofWrigleyField wrote, Ichiro’s defense was completely off in 2011 and he obviously looks excellent now. Players breaking down are not able to turn it around like that.

    Dave says he doesn’t count on Wells/Guti/Saunders, but counts on the FO bringing in a good outfielder from somewhere.
    Who was the last substantial (not bit-player) FA to pan out?
    I don’t think the track record in general is good, or Ichiro would have a ring or two, while he was consistently putting up those 4, 5 WAR seasons.

    I think some people seem too eager to write off a player who does not look at all like Griffey-at-the-end; a player who is playing excellent defense and has one of the highest LD rates of his HoF career.
    I still think that Ichiro’s performance has been penalized by change of approach forced on him because of one abberant year (2011) after 10 excellent years of performance, and because management wanted to accommodate Figgins at leadoff.

    This is a wrong idea and way to run out of town an excellent, uncomplaining (after all the recent years’ crap) future Hall of Famer who has only ever wanted to wear a Mariners uniform.

  73. eponymous coward on July 18th, 2012 5:54 pm

    If I remember right, Guti had G.I. issues which now appear to be solved, a pec injury, and was hit in the face on a pick-off. These aren’t chronic-type injuries, so I’m not sure you can or should write him off as unreliable for 2013, right? Would be different if he had bad knees, recurring shoulder problems, etc.

    Missing lots of baseball over long periods of time is rarely good for your career, and injury-prone players tend to stay injury-prone. Guti should be nobody’s idea for a lock in 2013, and the M’s should be looking to bring in someone who can play a corner position and hit some (OF/1B/DH).

    I hope he can be moved to a contender

    Uh, Ichiro is a 5 and 10 player. So he’s not going to be moved this season unless he’s in perfect agreement with that idea, and I think it’s not going to happen, for obvious reasons:

    - a player who is well below his career numbers and makes $19 million this year (so, pro-rated, something like $6 million), and is a free agent at season’s end has essentially negative trade value. The only way the M’s get anything for him is if they add in cash (in which case, they might get some bit player) and/or talent (which they don’t have any spare to trade right now, considering that this is still a bad team).

    - and the message you send your franchise player for a decade is “we can’t wait to get of you”. As well as to the fanbase, so it’s a less than classy way to deal with a star in decline, don’t you think?

    This is a wrong idea and way to run out of town an excellent, uncomplaining (after all the recent years’ crap) future Hall of Famer who has only ever wanted to wear a Mariners uniform.

    Nobody is running anybody out, but this is simple. Ichiro is pushing 40 and is pretty clearly in the decline phase of his career, where he is not an obviously better player than players like Wells or Saunders. This team is in no position to give Ichiro even $10 million next year to play RF, which in itself would be a very large salary cut, thanks to the ongoing disaster of the past decade, and by the time this team is in anything resembling a position to contend where “OK, let’s pick up that last veteran” makes sense, Ichiro is very likely to BE 40 years old, or older. At this point, he isn’t cringingly bad ala Griffey, Sexson or Vidro. Do we really want to wait until he gets to that point to figure out what to do? Or can we just honor him this September and then move on? We did this with Moyer and it doesn’t seem so awful; why not Ichiro?

    It is a damned shame that this franchise largely wasted Ichiro’s productive years (like they are doing with Felix so far), but it is what it is.

  74. Dayve on July 18th, 2012 8:05 pm

    You’re right about ichiros decline and ability to play to a certain level. You neglected to point out that he’s still one of the better players on the team.

  75. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on July 18th, 2012 8:41 pm

    Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge Ichiro fan.

    It is hard for me to agree with Dave’s assessment, but I must. There are one of two things going on with Ichiro — the first possibility is that he has truly declined and is no longer a useful everyday major league player. The other is that he had an off year last year and, rather than simply making necessary adjustments to rebound, he — with the urging of the manager and coaches — tried to reinvent himself to fill a role he is not suited for. While he was unlikely to bring himself back to his prime form in any case, he compounded last year’s problems with new ones. Ichiro did mess with some fundamental aspects of his plate approach, and it did not work out well.

    The sad realization is this — either way, Seattle is not likely the right place for him next year. If he’s done, then we shouldn’t be extending a multi-year deal to drag out the inevitable and hamper our chances at winning. If he still can rebound, a change of scenery is probably the best thing for him to make it happen. A change to a hitter-friendly park, perhaps even a change to the National League could give him some new life for a time if it is in him.

    I don’t see Ichiro in Seattle as good for either party, frankly. And that statement comes with much sadness.

  76. Mariners35 on July 18th, 2012 8:52 pm

    Uh, guys? If you’re trotting out his 1.7, 1.8 WAR as being one of the better players on the team, that isn’t praise of him, it’s criticism of the team.

  77. Dayve on July 18th, 2012 9:03 pm


  78. marinerblue on July 18th, 2012 10:43 pm

    The only problem I have with letting Ichiro go is that he’s better than the the (young) bums we’re rolling out there now. Odds are, he’ll finish with the highest average and most hits of everyone on the team. Some have said that we don’t have anything in Tacoma that is any better that him right now… Tacoma? We don’t have anything in SEATTLE that has shown itself to be consistently better. The youth movement, at least as it relates to position players, is starting to show itself as a complete failure. We’re likely to end up with someone hitting .220, and with less speed that Ichiro.

    As for the idea that paying him a high salary will take away from money we could spend other places, that simply isn’t true. The M’s have a salary set by ownership – Ichiro is exempt from that number. Rest assured, if he is gone after this year, that DOES NOT free up whatever money the owners would have been willing to pay him. He is a special line item on their books, and we’re not going to let that money be redistributed to another player, as much as it makes sense to do so.

    I hope he goes to the National League, hits down in the order on a good ball club – it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets back up near .300 in that scenario. We’ll trot out Liddi or Ackley or someone else to go 1 for 4 at best and call it development, but we won’t be any better.

  79. Adam S on July 18th, 2012 11:44 pm

    If you’re trotting out his 1.7, 1.8 WAR as being one of the better players on the team, that isn’t praise of him, it’s criticism of the team.
    Even worse, you’re misinterpreting the data.

    Ichiro is a replacement level player whose value comes from his defense. People quoting 1.6 or 1.7 WAR are basing that on the 14.5 defensive runs FanGraphs credits him. But that number is almost certainly an artifact of small sample size and our inability to measure defense precisely. If true, this would be Ichiro’s best defensive season ever at age 38 coming off his worst defensive season ever. That fails the sniff test. Baseball Prospectus says he’s worth 5 runs so far which is a bit more realistic.

    Ichiro is a 1 – 1.5 WAR player for a full season right now and likely to get worse.

  80. samregens on July 19th, 2012 12:56 am

    Sure, let’s throw out any data which shows Ichiro in a good light, and just keep the bad.

    Don’t pretend to be on the higher ground, because you’re not.

  81. eponymous coward on July 19th, 2012 5:48 am

    As for the idea that paying him a high salary will take away from money we could spend other places, that simply isn’t true. The M’s have a salary set by ownership – Ichiro is exempt from that number. Rest assured, if he is gone after this year, that DOES NOT free up whatever money the owners would have been willing to pay him. He is a special line item on their books, and we’re not going to let that money be redistributed to another player, as much as it makes sense to do so.

    If the M’s simply cut all the money from payroll they are paying to Ichiro this year, their payroll would be around $60 million. That would be one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

    And if the Mariners want to go cheap except for Ichiro, who is somehow special, why is Felix still a Mariner? They could take his 20 million off the books, and the M’s WOULD have an extremely low payroll, even WITH Ichiro. There wasn’t any need to sign him to a long-term deal a couple of years ago, other than, well, they wanted to have some talented high-payroll players. So what’s the evidence that Ichiro’s any different?

  82. LongTimeFan on July 20th, 2012 7:38 am

    I hope that Ichiro decides and is able to sign a contract with a team from the AL East next year, and hopefully a multi-year contract. Ichiro has clearly lost some of his quickness, but what is being largely ignored by most of the Mariner fanbase is that in Seattle, Ichiro has gone through a career progression from playing on a great team in 2001, to playing on good teams from 2002-2004, then so-so teams 2005-2008, then down-right awfull teams 2009-2012. There is a very real possibility that Ichiro could experience a career resurgence to a degree, if he was playing in a hit-friendly ballpark like Fenway and playing in a lineup where he had some protection. The last several years, opposing teams have had the option of not throwing Ichiro any pitches to hit, and in the last 2 years, teams like the Angels and Rangers have employed defensive shifts when Ichiro hits (thanks, Mike Scioscia). Even in the last 2 seasons, Ichiro continues to downright rake in hit-friendly ballparks and against teams that do not employ the defensive shift. He could hit even better in a lineup in which there were intimidating bats behind him and the pitcher could not afford to nibble at the corners or walk him.

    Even in Seattle, Ichiro is on-pace this season (if he plays all of the remaining games) to finish with around 2.8 WAR. That would put his 2-year average at 1.6 WAR, and his 3-year average at 2.2 WAR (which would make it appear that his 2011 season was an aberration). Current market prices are around $4.5 Million per WAR which means that this year Ichiro will be worth $12.6 million to the Mariners. For his entire Seattle career, Ichiro has been paid $146 Million and has been worth $199 Million (you’re welcome, Mariners). If Ichiro wants a 3-year deal and a team is willing to pay, his value ceiling should be around $9 Million per year based on assumed 2 WAR per season (price per WAR will go up over the 3 years, so team is partially insulated if performance drops). Of course, if Ichiro’s value drops to zero, said team has lost $27 Million dollars, but on the other hand, if Ichiro regresses to 3 WAR per year and cost per WAR continues to rise, then the team comes out ahead.

    The Bone(head) has never been fond of Ichiro, but this is because Bone is a slugger who worships the long-ball and cannot fathom how a slap-hitter could be considered a greater player than he was when Ichiro has less than a third of the career homers that Bone had. That is why Bone always was fond of and respected Griffey, but does not respect Ichiro or understand why other baseball people do.

    It is a shame that Seattle fans have appeared to display such vitriol toward Ichiro throughout his career, and especially this year. People forget that the number of hits Ichiro has compiled over past 12 years is the most in a 12-year span by ANY player EVER, not just among active players, but All-time. We will never see this again, people! We should all be enjoying this more. I hope Ichiro plays elsewhere next year and I hope he regresses to a bit more of his old self. I would not be shocked at all if Ichiro were to hit .300 with 200 hits for a team like Boston in 2013. Meanwhile, back in Seattle, we may not win a World Series until 2045.

    Here’s to you, Ichiro. Thanks for gracing Seattle with your talents and for putting up with all of the fans and the Boneheads. You deserve better.

  83. Jopa on July 20th, 2012 9:00 am

    I’d love for this to be his final season.

    OF is clearly the weakest area of organizational depth now. I’d like to see the M’s give Jack the bulk of Ichiro’s $18M coming off the books, plus the money from not bringing back Olivo, Vargas and League, plus the $9M that will drop off the following year from Figgin’s departure, to upgrade the OF as best as possible.

    And what I mean here is to use this money in free agency rather than trading away organizational depth at other positions, which seems to be what everyone is clamoring for here and at other M’s blogs.

    Some of that money is needed for pay raises, but most of it can go to one great or two very good veteran starting OF’s signed this off-season, or one this year and one next year.

    I’m seeing Saunders as the only long-term solution at one OF spot. I think they need at least two others asap, with Wells as the 4th OF.

  84. Jopa on July 20th, 2012 9:19 am

    Put numerically, I would give Jack a $30 million/year budget, the approximate money saved from Ichiro ($18M), League ($5M), Vargas ($5M) and Olivo ($4M), with the task of finding two high quality OF’s in the off-season.

    I’d staff all other positions from within the organization. What small pay raises are necessary come from the salaries of Millwood and Iwakuma and the eventual savings from Figgin’s and Gutierrez’s salary the following year.

    I’m seeing Saunders as a starting OF and Wells as the 4th OF.

    Obviously, this assumes that worthy FA’s will be available and would want to play for the M’s, which is far from given. Finding two quality FA OF’s could span two off-seasons.

  85. eponymous coward on July 20th, 2012 11:13 am

    OF is clearly the weakest area of organizational depth now.

    I’d staff all other positions from within the organization.

    So, you’d let Justin Smoak flail for another 1200 plate appearances? Use Mike Carp, who really doesn’t project out much better than Smoak (a below-average 1B)? Move Montero to 1B and promote Zunino from rookie ball to MLB?

    Oh, and you just deducted a guy from the rotation (Vargas) who’s been good for 2 WAR a year. Last I checked, we were using Blake Freakin’ Beavan as a starter BEHIND Vargas. Vargas isn’t a bad player; he’s only a bad player to have on your roster if you pay him Jarrod Washburn/Carlos Silva guaranteed money, and the M’s are likely to cheap out on him (if the team wasn’t being cheap, they could easily afford a $7-8 million mid-rotation innings eater on a year deal).

    This team isn’t close enough to having a huge wave of young talent very close to MLB that they should be putting all their eggs in one basket when it comes to talent acquisition. So getting dogmatically stuck on “upgrade the OF” isn’t where we want to be. Just upgrade the talent on the roster, and worry about having too many talented players at a position later… much later, maybe if Montero, Hultzen, Franklin and Zunino are all All-Star caliber in 2014 (which IMO would be very much a very optimistic outcome we shouldn’t assume out of the gate).

  86. Jopa on July 20th, 2012 1:25 pm

    Yes, I would give the combination of Smoak, Carp, and Montero at least another year to prove they can fill 1B. I haven’t lost confidence in them as you have. Personally, I believe the rebuilding process has another two years to go and I’m fine with that.

    Vargas stands to earn $7 million next year. I wouldn’t pay it. You will. Fine. If necessary, there are veterans that will give similar production for a fraction of that (eg. Millwood this season).

    I’ve suggested neither “all their eggs” nor “one basket”. Clearly, if they can do it for less, great, and apply the savings elsewhere.

  87. eponymous coward on July 20th, 2012 3:44 pm

    So, having competent OFers is so critical the M’s need to drop $30 million, but competent 1B isn’t so important because the organization is two years away from contending, so we can continue to let a guy fail for another couple of years, or move a prospect from the position where their bat projects well at (C), to one where it doesn’t (1B)? Am I understanding you correctly? Because that does seem to be what you are arguing. Why are Carp and Smoak superior players to Wells, Saunders and Guti when it comes to filling in holes on the roster?

    Oh, and Millwood’s been as good as Vargas- this year. Not so much in 2010-2011. This is the downside to continually using Large Item Pickup Day to fill out your roster- you might get the 2012 Millwood for cheap, or the 2010 Millwood for cheap. Sometimes you get Russ Branyan, sometimes you get Jack Cust. Sometimes you get Wilhelmsen, sometimes you get Sherrill.

    That being said, sure, I’d rather they signed next year’s Edwin Jackson than Jason Vargas. But the overall problem with the talent on this roster and in the system isn’t limited to OF. The roster needs corner position players (OF/1B/DH) who can hit, the rotation is weak if you dump Vargas, even if you handwave Hultzen into a successful #2, the organization needs to sort through some players, and while Jackson looked good this year, Tacoma was a bad team, so it’s not like we’re flush with MLB-ready players. The problem isn’t just OFers, it’s still overall organizational talent. So don’t lock in on a weak FA class for OFers; work on improving the talent base, then worry about where it all needs to play.

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