If you’re reading this, odds are you like to read about the Seattle Mariners. Perhaps you’ve already stumbled upon this article from a few days ago, in which Geoff Baker suggests that the M’s should trade for twilighting franchise icon Ichiro Suzuki. Lots of people read that article! It got a lot of attention, both locally and nationally.
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It makes sense why the idea is generating so much buzz – Seattle loves Ichiro, and Ichiro makes us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. It makes sense why Baker wrote that article – views pay, and lots of people are going to want to look at something suggesting a reunion between a woebegone franchise and it’s former star. But that’s the extent to which this makes sense. After that it’s nonsensical.
The Mariners’ current crop of outfielders includes Austin Jackson, Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez, Nelson Cruz, Mark Trumbo, and Seth Smith – or, if you’d rather, a fringe-average center fielder, two fourth outfielders, and three designated hitters. The only 40-man guys in the minors are James Jones and Stefen Romero, neither of whom has any business returning to the big leagues. No doubt, the M’s outfield is an area of weakness, and one that should probably be addressed.
If the Mariners want to improve their team before the trade deadline – which maybe they do, maybe they don’t – then the goal should be to acquire players who can help the team win now and, if possible, in the future. So, like, good players, or at least players having good years. Players with something to offer this team. And that is most certainly not Ichiro.
As of right now, Ichiro is hitting ..266/.316/.310. That’s a 75 wRC+, which means that his total offensive production has been 25 percent worse than the average major leaguer. Ichiro isn’t adding anything with his bat. He’s been essentially the same hitter as Robinson Cano this season. Cano’s offense has been one of the worst things about this team! So if the M’s add Ichiro, it’s absolutely not for his bat.
What else does Ichiro bring to the table? He used to be a terrific defensive outfielder, but that’s a thing of the past. Ichiro’s slow out there, as you’d expect from a 41-year-old. Oldest position player in the majors, you know, and definitely not any good in the field. So the M’s don’t want to add Ichiro for his glove any more than they want him for his bat.
The other thing Ichiro used to be awesome at is stealing bases. He’s swiped all of six bags this season, and has actually been a net negative on the basepaths. As age takes its toll on his body, Ichiro’s speed continues to decline. So the M’s don’t want Ichiro for his legs. They already have James Jones if they want a speed-only guy. Ichiro isn’t coming to town for his speed.
So Ichiro can’t hit, field, or run. And the idea is to trade for him, on purpose, to make the team better? Also of note: there’s no way the Miami Marlins are trading Ichiro right now. Giancarlo Stanton is going to be on the DL for a while, which makes Ichiro a starter. Trade Ichiro and the Marlins just need to go find another outfielder to fill a short-term hole. It would make absolutely no sense from their perspective, unless the M’s were giving them something of value. Which would be stupid, given that Ichiro sucks now.
Baker argues that Ichiro’s OBP was better a few weeks ago, before he entered a slump. But his offensive numbers right now are pretty well in line with where he’s been at the last four-plus years, and it’s obvious to the world that this is just what Ichiro is now. He can’t really do anything particularly well and is waaaaaay past the age where anyone should expect any kind of turnaround.
If the Mariners are set on making a marginal upgrade – which they’re not – then they could get a younger, better version of Ichiro for free in Jose Tabata. Tabata’s a 26-year-old outfielder with a career .336 OBP. Sure, he can’t do anything but get on base, but that’s more than can be said about Ichiro, who is fifteen years older. Tabata’s under control for a while too, and isn’t a terrible bounceback candidate. He’s got a career 101 wRC+ and will clear waivers due to his contract. He’s not a great acquisition target, but he’s a much better fit than Ichiro.
Do you remember the kind of stuff Baker was writing about Ichiro a few years ago, before he was traded to the New York Yankees? This is a guy who spent the star’s prime years smearing his personality and skillset, babbling about how Ichiro was a role player miscast as a star. Now that Ichiro sucks Baker’s going to tell you that he’s good because Geoff Baker is a provocateur above anything else. He’s not saying to trade for Ichiro because it’s a good idea; he’s saying to trade for Ichiro because it’s fun for him to say stuff like that.
It has been suggested that the Seattle Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki should reunite, with the goal being to help the 2015 team win games. Ichiro sucks and the Mariners suck, and while that might make them a good emotional match it really does nothing to help the team get better. Ichiro, just like any other crappy player, won’t make the M’s better. Obviously.