Does bringing back Ichiro make sense?
ST. LOUIS — Ichiro Suzuki continues to amaze. The iconic outfielder collected professional hit No. 4,191 on Friday night in Miami’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis at Busch Stadium.
The milestone matches Ty Cobb, second on MLB’s all-time hits leader board, behind Pete Rose (4,256).
At 41, Ichiro is going strong. He’s adapted to a bench role with the Marlins, and making his mark whenever called upon.
Ichiro also is at 2,913 big league hits, as he attempts to become the 30th player in MLB history to reach 3,000.
One question the Marlins must ask themselves in the offseason is if they want to future Hall of Famer to reach the benchmark in a Miami uniform?
The answer should be yes. As a bench player he still offers productivity. He keeps in tremendous shape. He’s immensely prepared, and popular with his teammates. Plus, he will generate positive attention (something Miami certainly needs) as he gets closer to the magical 3,000.
I can envision an “Ichiro Countdown” marker on the Marlins Park outfield wall. After each hit, it will count down, and all of baseball will be watching.
The value Ichiro brings is more than just performance on the field. He provides a presence, and a professionalism a young club could use. He’s also going to be cost friend. He signed for $2 million this season, and his salary likely won’t go up, at least much.
Also, it’s not like Ichiro is blocking a top prospect from advancing to the big leagues. The lone outfielder in the system making a case to be a fourth or fifth outfielder is Cole Gillespie, who already is on the roster.
The fact the Marlins aren’t expected to see a dramatic increase in payroll makes even more sense to retain Ichiro and Gillespie.
Also, as we’ve seen this season, there is plenty of playing time for everyone.
In Spring Training, the hot topic was — How would Ichiro get playing time? Miami, after all, seemed set in the outfield with Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right.
As we saw early, nothing went according to plan for the Marlins this year. Stanton (broke left hand) hasn’t played since June 26. Ozuna was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans on July 5, and Yelich has spent time on the DL early in the year, and he’s missed almost a week with a bruised right knee.
Ichiro has appeared in 109 games, second on the Marlins only to Adeiny Hechavarria’s 112. Sure, many of those games have been as a pinch-hitter, but he’s also made plenty of starts.
In terms of plate appearances, he’s at 302, along with 273 at-bats. Finding at-bats won’t be a problem.
With the Yankees last year, Ichiro played in 143 games, had 385 plate appearances and 359 at-bats.
Stanton this season has 318 plate appearances and 279 at-bats, while Yelich is at 382 PAs and 346 ABs, and Ozuna 322/297.
The Marlins’ primary offseason plan is to compile pitching, not worry about outfield depth.
When it comes to planning for 2016, there certainly is room for a future Hall of Famer like Ichiro on a team striving to become a contender.
— Joe Frisaro