Marlins Rumors: Miami’s pursuit of Ichiro Suzuki intensifying


In recent days, the Miami Marlins have seen possible outfield targets Andy Dirks and and Nate Schierholtz fall off the free agent board, with the signing deals with the Blue Jays and Nationals instead. That has forced the Marlins to turn their attention potential candidates for the team’s 4th outfielder role, and Ichiro Suzuki appears to be at the top of the list now.

According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, the Marlins have developed a growing interest in Ichiro, perhaps buoyed by the shrinking back-up market.

The question of course arises about whether or not Ichiro is prepared to embrace a back-up role at this stage in his career. Even in 2014, when he was slated for a reserve role with the New York Yankees, Suzuki saw action in 143 games and accumulated 385 plate appearances. He would turn that into a solid .284/.324/.340 slash-line at the age of 40.

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However, Suzuki stands 156 hits shy of the 3000 hit plateau in Major League Baseball. A career .317/.360/.411 hitter during his 14-year MLB career, the 3000-hit mark will almost assuredly garner the Japanese import a plaque on the wall in Cooperstown. It’s a given that he’s still playing in order to reach that mark, so a back-up role may not entice him enough to keep going.

That said, Ichiro’s two-and-a-half seasons in New York showed a definitive decline for the aging outfielder. Arriving with a career mark of .322/.366/.418 while with the Mariners, Suzuki slumped to .281/.314/.364 with the Yankees, despite playing in a much friendlier park to hit in. Additionally, 2014 saw a definitive decline in his fielding range, with Ichiro slipping from a right field UZR/150 of 17.8 in 2013 to a -0.2 in 2014, while also posting marks of -11.6 and -26.6 in center field and left field respectively.

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If that decline is due to his usage as a reserve rather than steady action in both the field and at the dish, then it isn’t a good sign of things to come if he were to sign with the Marlins. With a starting outfield of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton, at-bats and innings may be hard to come by. Both Yelich and Ozuna represent far superior defensive outfielders and there is no chance that Suzuki would be taking at-bats from Stanton, especially late in games.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers at this stage in the winter, and if Suzuki would be willing to take the chance and come over on a friendly deal, knowing his role will be limited, there certainly are worse options available.