Google this: Famous Seattle Mariners. Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson and Felix Hernandez will all appear on the list. But undoubtedly, the first name you will see is Ichiro Suzuki. In 2001, Ichiro made the leap from a Japanese League All-Star to American League MVP. Since that time Ichiro has compiled a small museum of awards, 2500 hits and a career .323 batting average. A sure first ballot Hall of Famer and Seattle icon, Ichiro finds himself in an unfamiliar position, on the trading block.
The Mariners have been open with their loyal fan base. Plans have been laid out to rebuild and push forward with the youth they already have. Dustin Ackley (24), Justin Smoak (26), Jesus Montero (22) and Michael Saunders (25) all have become the new Seattle mainframe. Ichiro is now 38 and has begun to slow down. Still a valuable commodity to a team involved in a post-season push. A clutch hitter who has been for years a rally starter. He is a pest to opposing pitchers. There lies the Mariner dilemma.
If you polled the Mariner faithful, even the team's front office, I believe the majority would side in favor not to trade the All-Star right fielder. Baseball purists, and casual fans alike always prefer stars like Ichiro to go out with the club they came in with. Everyone remembers Babe Ruth's Yankee days where as few even acknowledge or are aware he finished his career in Boston as a Brave. Who brags of Hank Aaron's last two seasons, when he was a Brewer? Would anyone want to see Derek Jeter play his last couple of seasons say in Arizona?
These days there is much to be said for the business of sports. Make no mistake about it. This is a baseball decision not a business nor financial call. Ichiro is in the last year of a 90 million dollar deal. That fact alone makes it very tempting for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik to entertain trade offers. Think about it. To re-sign Ichiro, you're looking at approximately about 2 years at 16-20 million. If he stays healthy, he's still good for 150 plus hits and an above average on bass percentage. If you trade him, you save that money and add another piece to the new mix. In 2000 the Indians traded aged slugger David Justice to the Yanks for three players including current big league hurler Jake Westbrook. Closer Eric Gagne was sent from Texas to Boston for three prospects in 2007. David Murphy was one of those prospects.
Whatever the Mariner organization decides to do, it could still be the end of Ichiro in Seattle. If there is no trade and he becomes a free agent will Ichiro stay for less money. It is unrealistic to think that a small market club the Mariners will spend top dollar to retain there star. A recent string of poor seasons and diminished attendance at the gate will assure that.