Why the A’s should trade for Ichiro Suzuki

Posted on 22 February 2012 by Graham Womack

Last year, Ichiro Suzuki had his worst season. The Seattle Mariners right fielder and future Hall of Famer hit .272, 54 points below his lifetime average. He also had an OPS+ of 84 and -0.4 WAR and failed to win a Gold Glove or top 200 hits for the first time in his career, the ageless wonder finally starting to look like a player pushing 40. The Mariners have been through this before with Ken Griffey Jr., and if past experience holds, this only gets worse for Seattle.

There are two options for the Mariners. They can hold onto Ichiro and keep paying him $17 million a season until the franchise icon retires– in fact, there’s talk of him hitting third for Seattle this year. But there’s a better option, one I wouldn’t hesitate on if I was the Mariners general manager. If I’m Jack Zduriencik, I call the Athletics and swing a deal.

Sounds impossible and illogical for Oakland, I’m sure, a team seemingly in a holding pattern while it awaits approval to move to San Jose. The A’s have a projected $38 million budget for Opening Day, little hope of contending with the Rangers and Angels this year in the American League West, and as a kicker, no less than seven outfielders that could see playing time. Then there’s Manny Ramirez who could join the A’s lineup as a 40-year-old designated hitter in late May after he serves a 50-game suspension for his second positive test for performance enhancing drugs. There’s a definite logjam in Oakland, but nothing’s set in stone, either. Nothing in Oakland ever is, really, with Billy Beane baseball’s version of that neighbor who manages to hold a garage sale every weekend.

Certainly, the A’s would need to clear roster space and make the dollars work in a trade for Ichiro, perhaps cribbing off the deal the Pittsburgh Pirates recently pulled to get A.J. Burnett and have the Yankees pay roughly 60 percent of the $31 million he’s owed. But there’s incentive for the A’s here. In the offensive wasteland that is Oakland Coliseum, Ichiro owns a .364 lifetime batting average in 418 at-bats, compared to .326 at Safeco Field in Seattle. Even last year in the midst of epic struggles, Ichiro hit .351 in Oakland while batting just .261 at home. Playing a full season with the A’s, Ichiro could be a .300 hitter for a team that’s had just two the past six years.

Then there are the fan implications. I attended an early season game in Oakland last year on Japanese Heritage Day (which happened to come against the Mariners, coincidentally.) The amount of Asian fans in the stands there to cheer A’s designated hitter Hideki Matsui was stark. Matsui was on and off with his play in his only year in Oakland, yet another left-handed power hitter not ideally suited for the vast confines of the Coliseum, and while it doesn’t make sense to bring him back, the A’s could use another drawing card. Enter Ichiro having a resurgent, All Star season. Depending on how much of Ichiro’s contract the Mariners are willing to eat for the right assortment of prospects, the A’s might even turn a profit in this arrangement.

Oakland could get a boost in the standings as well, perhaps enough to hang as a dark horse wild card contender. Even now, the team has more depth and talent than may be available at quick glance, with Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, and Brandon McCarthy potential keys to an experienced, capable starting rotation, and Cliff Pennington and Jemille Weeks the core of perhaps the most underrated infield in baseball. Were Ichiro to start in right field, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that he, Coco Crisp, and Yoenis Cespedes might comprise one of the best outfields in the majors, at least defensively.

The question may arise why Seattle would be willing to part with Ichiro, potentially the first Hall of Famer to spend his entire career with the Mariners. Simply, it comes down to dollars and the logic, or lack thereof, of paying $17 million to a player who’s sub-replacement level at this point playing in Seattle. Everyone wins in this arrangement. The Mariners get something for a player they’d otherwise get nothing for, the A’s get a boost, and for Ichiro, there could be new life in Oakland. Left unsaid in all of this is that playing for the A’s, the man currently at 2,428 hits might have a shot at 3,000.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Jon Doble Says:

    Does Ichiro want to play in Oakland? That’d be the question seeing as he’s a 10/5 player. He signed his last extension early to stay in Seattle. I see your point on his splits, but I don’t think that’d be enough to convince Ichiro to accept the trade.

  2. Baseballs Deep Says:

    Ichiro is the last year of his current contract. You’re assuming that the Mariners would resign him for $17M after this season. I would expect Ichiro to have to take a slight pay cut in his next contract no matter where he plays. Bear in mind though that there will be considerable media and fan interest as he closes in on 3000 career hits.

    Ichiro also still has a strong fan base in Seattle (and Japan). While the team may not compete for the division crown, they would risk alienating a significant portion of their fan base by trading Ichiro now. Ichiro’s fan appeal would be completely wasted in Oakland Mausoleum this year. If the A’s were already located in San Jose, then I think your trade idea might be more attractive to the A’s.

    If the Mariners are indeed interested in trading Ichiro, they would be better off waiting until the trading deadline as his trade value is undervalued at this time. I don’t expect the Figgins resuscitation project to be successful, but I do expect Ichiro to be successful in the ’3′ spot of the lineup. Yes, he didn’t record 200 hits last year for the first time in his career. But, he did still finish 9th in the AL with 184 hits. He also posted a .302/.401/.349 slash line with 40 RBI with runners in scoring position last year

  3. Bryan Grosnick Says:

    Yup, I agree with the poster above on all counts. At the same time, given Ichiro’s 10/5 rights, the Mariners probably aren’t trading him even at the deadline. Having lived in the Seattle area, I can attest that there’d basically be fury in the streets if Ichiro was traded – I can’t imagine they could get a return that would be worth it to deal him.

  4. TONY H Says:

    Having 10/5 rights and he having said he wouldnt negotiate until season is over DOES not give Mariners achnce to trade for a potential talent ( We r re-buiding for the Future if we r nt forgetting..)

    I can see him going to New York or LA in the stretch run. LA has a good stock of talent in the minor leagues just as we have in Seattle minor league teams.

    There may b a riot on the first day but we get over things quickly. There s enough radio rhetoric saying Ichiro should b traded for the past 2 yrs.
    Ichiro arrived in Seattle when we were still CONTENDERS ( remember way back when..) We have to thank him for his SERVICES in Seattle. Do you think the City will name a STREET after him ?

    Safeco itself has been undergoing to UPGRADE (this is the KEYWORD !) within Stadium services, staffing, even their menu ….
    One of the Steel wheels cracked when trtying to close the roof back in JANUARY !! What about the other 3 wheels ??? Who is going to pay for their repairs in the future ? The FANS !!

    This year will b BIG because DARVISH is the MAN from JAPAN for the MLB !! Time to pass the Torch …

Leave a Reply

Categorized | MLB

Advertise Here
Advertise Here