Ichiro Suzuki is a living legend, and at 44-years-old, he reportedly wants to lace up those spikes again in 2018.
Indeed last weekend, the All-Time Hit King told reporters in Japan that he wanted to continue playing baseball, even though the Marlins recently declined his contract option for next season (to be fair, it feels like they’d decline anybody’s contract if they could):
“I feel like a big dog at a pet shop that hasn’t been sold. Of course, I want to play baseball next year.”
Someone get this man a job. Now.
Yes, Ichiro took a significant step backwards last season, slashing just .255/.318/.332 with 3 homers, a stolen base, and 20 RBI in 215 PAs. Moreover, his defense in the outfield was subpar and his usually fantastic base running was just barely above average. HOWEVER, he still managed to walk quite a bit and is still an extremely tough person to strike out.
And, you know, there’s the fact that he’s freakin’ Ichiro Suzuki – so he’s got that going for him.
Unfortunately, the projections for next season don’t foresee much of an improvement at the plate, and I’m not sure you can expect him to gain a step on the base paths or in the field, either. Suddenly, I’m getting nervous that this may be the end of the line for one of MLB’s greatest players.
On the bright side, free agency has been a notoriously slow-moving vehicle this winter, as some of the big-spenders adjust to life with a more penalizing luxury tax threshold. Hopefully, as some of the bigger free agents sign their contracts and teams look to add their fourth and fifth outfielders, a more clear path to the Majors for Ichiro will emerge. I’m willing to bet SOMEONE will bring him in on a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training to see what he’s got left in the tank.
And in case – for some terrible reason – that doesn’t work out … it sounds like he’d be open to closing his career out in Japan. So fear not, baseball fans, you’re likely to see Ichiro step up to the plate a few more times before it’s all said and done. It’s just a matter of where?