The Mariners could be reaching into their past to improve their present chances, with USA Today first to report that Ichiro Suzuki is close to returning to his former team. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman added that the two sides are hoping to solidify things in a day or two.
The deal would be a Major League contract, according to ESPN.com, which means the Mariners would have to make a move to open a spot on their 40-man roster. The Mariners have not confirmed the reports.
The #Mariners are working to finalize an agreement with Ichiro Suzuki, as @BNightengale reported. It would be a big-league deal, and could be completed later today or early tomorrow. Things have heated up over the last day or two with Ben Gamels’ oblique injury.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) March 5, 2018
The Mariners are looking to bolster their outfield depth with three of their top four outfielders currently dealing with injury issues. Ichiro, 44, played in 136 games last year as a reserve outfielder for the Marlins, posting a .255/.318/.332 line with three home runs, 20 RBIs and one stolen base in 215 plate appearances.
The future Hall of Famer has spent the majority of his 17-year Major League career in Seattle, signing with the Mariners in 2001 and earning 10 American League All-Star bids and 10 Gold Gloves during his 11 1/2 seasons.
The Mariners traded him to the Yankees midseason of 2012, and he spent 2 1/2 years in New York and the last three in Miami. He has a career .312 batting average and 3,080 hits in the Majors.
The club learned Monday that left fielder Ben Gamel will be out four to six weeks with a strained right oblique muscle. Right fielder Mitch Haniger has yet to play this spring, though he was cleared Friday to begin swinging a bat after dealing with a sore hand and could see game action soon.
Guillermo Heredia, the fourth outfielder, is coming back from shoulder surgery and was just cleared to play games. He's 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in two Cactus League contests as a designated hitter, but won't be allowed to play the outfield for another seven to 10 days.
Ichiro won the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year honors for Seattle in 2001 and set a Major League record with 262 hits in '04. He became the 30th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 hits in '16 while with the Marlins.
Ichiro became a free agent when the Marlins declined a $2 million option for 2018. He earned $2 million with Miami last year.
The Mariners have gone down this road before. They brought back Ken Griffey Jr., their biggest star in franchise history, at age 39 after he'd been gone for nine years. Griffey hit .214 with 19 homers and 57 RBIs in 117 games in his first year back in 2009, then left the team midseason in his final year in '10 after batting just .184 in 33 games.
The Mariners have a strong history of Japanese players, with Ichiro being the most prominent. Hisashi Iwakuma has been one of Seattle's top pitchers the past six years and is back with the club this spring on a Minor League deal as he comes back from shoulder surgery.
Kazuhiro Sasaki was the Mariners' closer from 2000-03, Kenji Johjima was the starting catcher from 2006-09, and utility infieldersMunenori Kawasaki and Norichika Aoki have played with the club in recent seasons as well.
Mac Suzuki was the first Japanese player for the Mariners, as he pitched for Seattle in 1996 and 1998-99. And the club was the first -- and only -- MLB franchise to have Japanese ownership, as the Nintendo Corporation was the primary owner from 1992-2016 and still holds a minority share.