Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki won’t play again in 2018. Instead, he’ll transition to a new role as a special assistant to the chairman who travels with the team, the Mariners announced Thursday.
But if the words of his agent are any indication, Suzuki might not have had much say in this move.
Suzuki will take on his new role effective immediately. In addition to assisting with outfield play, base running and hitting, the 44-year-old will also serve as a mentor/adviser to both players and staffers.
“We want to make sure we capture all of the value that Ichiro brings to this team off the field,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “This new role is a way to accomplish that. While it will evolve over time, the key is that Ichiro’s presence in our clubhouse and with our players and staff improves our opportunity to win games. That is our No. 1 priority and Ichiro’s No. 1 priority.”
Relief pitcher Erik Goeddel was called up from the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate to take Suzuki’s roster spot.
Dipoto said the agreement Suzuki reached with the team doesn’t extend past the current season, but he hopes the veteran player stays with the organization for years to come.
“With Ichiro’s track record of success, his personality, his unique perspective and his work ethic, he is singularly positioned to impact both our younger players and the veterans in the clubhouse,” Dipoto said. “We really don’t want him to change anything that he’s doing right now, with the exception that he will not be playing in games.”
“We believe that Ichiro’s signing and his assimilation into our team has helped us this season, and we want to make sure we continue that,” Dipoto added.
But Suzuki’s agent, John Boggs, indicated that Sukuki isn’t ready to stop playing just yet.
“He doesn’t plan on retiring,’’ John Boggs, Ichiro’s agent, told USA Today. “He’s morphing into the role. He’ll still be traveling with the team, work out with the team every day, but he just isn’t going to be allowed to play.”
Boggs’s added that his client “in no way has decided to retire.”
So what exactly is going on?
Suzuki, who left Japan to play with the Mariners in 2001, had stints with the Yankees and Marlins before returning Seattle this year. The Mariners, it should be noted, were the only team to offer him a contract for 2018.
Suzuki has undoubtedly had a Hall-of-Fame career, with 3,089 hits in the majors and 1,278 more in Japan. Add those totals together, and he’s baseball’s all-time hit leader.
But, as one might expect from a hitter in his 40s, he’s not exactly the player he once was. Suzuki is batting .205 this season in 44 at-bats, a far cry from his career average of .311.
Though he has said in the past he’d like to keep on playing until he turns 50, you have to wonder whether he’s still able to contribute to a major-league club.
Still, Boggs said Suzuki has every intention of showing up in uniform for spring training with the Mariners next year, with the goal of making the team.
“He really doesn’t want to play for another organization,’’ Boggs said, “especially this year. The Mariners is where he wants to be. The only thing that could have been created is to keep him in the organization where he wants to be with, and keep the door open for the future.”
“And that door has yet to be decided.’’
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