Ichiro Suzuki will return to the Seattle Mariners, as he and the Mariners are working out a deal to sign the former icon of the franchise. The deal is expected to be for one year.
The Mariners made an announcement on Monday that their outfielder Ben Gamel would miss up to six weeks due to an injured oblique, which puts his availability to play on Opening Day up in the air and opens a potential spot on the roster for the Ichiro.
The deal for Ichiro could be ready to sign by early Tuesday, said one source.
Ichiro, who is 44, came into the picture after the Mariners were told that Gamel’s injury was more extensive than first thought after he was reviewed by physicians for the team. Gamel felt the injury for the first time last week during batting practice.
Gamel is one more name being added to a long list of players with ailments for Seattle. The Mariners’ injuries include first baseman Ryon Healy’s hand, outfielder Mitch Haniger’s hand and pitcher Felix Hernandez’s forearm. Outfielder Guillermo Heredia has not returned from shoulder surgery during the offseason, leaving the Mariners thin in the outfield.
Ichiro, who played in the All-Star Game 10 times during his 11 years with Seattle, between 2001 and 2012, holds the franchise’s all-time best batting average at .322 and has the most hits with 2,533.
Seattle has not played in the postseason since the 2001 rookie season of Ichiro, when he won both the MVP of the American League and the Rookie of the Year leading the Mariners to 116 wins, a league record, during the regular season.
The Miami Marlins did not pick up Ichiro’s club option of $2 million making him a free agent for this season. The move by Miami was the beginning of their payroll purge that new ownership, led by Derek Jeter, carried out during the offseason.
Ichiro is ranked 22nd in career hits with 3,080, but last season started only 22 games while accumulating 196 at bats, which is the lowest total during his entire 17-year career. He set a new record with 109 appearances at the plate as a pinch hitter, and posted a franchise record for pinch-hits with 27.
On July 4 of last year, Ichiro’s batting average was .202, but the remainder of the season he hit .315 and finished at .255. Ichiro is only the sixth player who is 43 years of age or older to have 50 hits or more in a season.