Ichiro to NY Yankees: Why Seattle Mariners Needed to Trade Their Superstar

Benjamin Klein@BenjaminJKleinContributor IIIJuly 23, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 19:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners gets ready in the batters box against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 19, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners may have traded the face of their franchise in outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, but it was a deal that they had to make.

Seattle acquired minor league pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Fahrquar—along with cash—from the New York Yankees in exchange for Ichiro, first reported by YES Network’s Jack Curry. It couldn’t have been easy for the Mariners to make this decision, but this substance behind such a big move.

Ichiro has been everything and more that the Mariners could hope for after coming to the team in 2000 from Japan, but he’s currently in the last year of a five-year, $90 million deal. With Ichiro entering free agency, the Seattle brass would be put into a tough spot to try and re-sign him.

Ichiro recently told Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan through a translator, “It’s going to go both ways. It can’t just come from the player. It’s got to come from the team, too. If the team is saying they need you, you’re necessary, then it becomes a piece. But if it’s just coming from the player, it’s not going to happen.”

It wasn’t clear how Ichiro would fit into the Mariners’ plans past this season, but they were tempted to give him a new contract. Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik planned on Ichiro returning, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, but a return now seems unlikely.

The potential contract that Ichiro could’ve gotten from the Mariners wasn’t the best idea in the eyes of some, especially former Mariner Jay Buhner. According to David Brown of Yahoo! Sports, Buhner is quoted saying, “I’d vomit. I mean, really, no offense. No offense, we’ve got to get this organization around. You can’t be spending all the money on one guy.”

Now maybe Buhner wasn’t too happy about losing his spot in right field to Ichiro, but he does have a point. Ichiro is 37 years old and well past his prime, so why give him an enormous contract to get him to stay?

It’s not worth it. Instead, Seattle got two fair prospects who could possibly turn into major league role players in the next few years.

It was clear that Seattle was selling the name “Ichiro” instead of the All-Star caliber player he used to be. He’s having a career-worst year hitting .261/.288/.353 with just 24 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases. He scored over 100 runs in previous seasons, but won’t come close to that total this season.

Part of Ichiro’s production has gone down because Seattle has become a very poor offensive and overall team. The Mariners are the second-worst team in terms of WAR this season, according to FanGraphs. They’re well out of the playoff race—in a year where nearly every team is still in the hunt—which gives them all the more reason to sell their veteran players now and continue the rebuilding process.

Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln also felt this was the right move, especially since Ichiro asked him for a trade a few weeks ago.

Lincoln is quoted saying, through MLB.com’s Josh Liebeskind, “Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his longtime agent, Tony Attanasio, approached Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him. Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players and opportunity to develop.”

It’s seems obvious that both Ichiro and the Mariners were ready for a divorce. Even though he’ll be wearing pinstripes for what looks like the remainder of the season, and possibly past that, Ichiro will forever be one of the faces of the Seattle Mariners. It was just a trade that had to happen.