One of the iconic players in franchise history before being traded to the Yankees in July of 2012, Ichiro has agreed to a one-year contract with the Seattle ballclub.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Ichiro is officially a Mariner again.
One of the iconic players in franchise history before being traded to the Yankees in July 2012, Ichiro has agreed to terms on a one-year major-league contract with the Seattle ballclub.
The acquisition, which has been rumored since Monday, was announced Wednesday morning, and Ichiro held a news conference with Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto on Wednesday afternoon.
“Obviously, a lot has happened in five years,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “I’ve experienced many, many things in the five years. I’ve learned and gained many, many experiences. And I’ve learned to handle situations and be able to go through certain things. As a player, you see the numbers, and maybe that’s a little different, but I’ve gained a lot, learned a lot in these last five years that makes me who I am today.”
The 44-year-old outfielder has played the past three seasons with the Miami Marlins but was not re-signed by them and became a free agent. The Mariners had an outfield need Monday when their regular left fielder, Ben Gamel, was diagnosed with an oblique strain that is expected to sideline him four to six weeks.
They turned to Ichiro, who electrified the baseball world when he moved from Japan to Seattle in 2001. Joining a Mariners team that would set an American League record with 116 victories, Ichiro earned the American League Most Valuable Player award after winning the first of his two batting titles with a .350 average.
“We’ve incurred some injuries, and our depth is not where it was when we began camp,” Dipoto said. “As soon as we got to the point we realized our major-league club was going to be deficient and we needed a little bit of help, we reached out to Ichiro. This dates back probably close to a week, five six days ago where we reached out, and it did not take long to put a deal together that brought Ichiro back home.
“We feel like it’s a good move for us, notably because of what Ichiro brings to us on the field but also what he brings to us in the clubhouse, what he brings to us in presence, and frankly, with a young group in the outfield, up to and including Dee (Gordon), who never played out there despite the fact he’s been an All-Star in the league, that is something we feel like this veteran presence Ichiro brings is huge for our club and our ability to step forward.”
Dubbed “the Sultan of Slap” for his unique hitting style, Ichiro would accumulate more than 200 hits in 10 consecutive seasons, including a major-league-record 262 in 2004. He made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in each of those 10 years as well.
But with the Mariners in a period of transition and Ichiro’s skills in decline, he asked for a trade in 2012, which was consummated July 23. The Mariners received pitchers Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell from the Yankees.
This will be Ichiro’s 18th major-league season. He has a career .312 average and 3,080 hits, which ranks 22nd on the all-time list and makes him one of just 31 players with 3,000 hits. Ichiro also had 1,278 hits during nine seasons in Japan with the Orix Blue Wave, the combined total of 4,358 surpassing Pete Rose’s major-league-record 4,256 hits.
Ichiro has said he would like to play until he’s 50.
“I think everybody hears I want to play until I’m 50,” he said Wednesday. “I want to make sure everybody understands I always say, at least 50. I want to make sure everybody understand that.”
The Mariners designated right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong for assignment to make room for Ichiro on the roster.