I don't know what it is about Ichiro, but he seems to be able to do no wrong here in Seattle.
Not to say he's been doing wrong, but there is definitely an issue with Ichiro continuing as the face of such a hapless franchise.
For one, the face of the franchise cannot also be the least vocal. He is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished, experienced, and skilled players to play the game today and as a lead off hitter he may have no peer. He's recorded 200 or more hits in every season he's played in the United States and he took home both league MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in his first season.
His production is so astounding as to defy logic since he doesn't take many pitches or swing in an orthodox manner. If he had began his pro career as a Mariner he would be a lock to break every hits record currently held by Pete Rose.
That being said, let's be real. He's in his mid-thirties with four years left on a huge contract. Even if he stays in shape (a very real possibility), he may be 40 by the time the Mariners are ready to contend.
So the question shouldn't be "What do you do with Ichiro?" but "What should Ichiro do?"
Ichiro, as of right now, can net a huge haul of prospects. There is one major team with a glaring hole in their outfield that used to be occupied by a healthy Johnny Damon and that's New York.
Before I'm pelted with tomatoes and sushi, please hear me out.
No one, especially me, wants to see another beloved Seattle icon play in pinstripes. The thought turns my stomach. But let's be real, they have a need, they can handle his salary, and they probably have a number of prospects they'd be willing to give up for Ichiro. If Cashman wants him, all he would need to do is give up a couple of hitting and one solid pitching prospect, and maybe some cash, and bada-boom, Ichiro in the outfield.
This serves two purposes.
One, it releases the Mariners from the shackles of believing their success rests on the skinny legs and erratic swing of a Japanese import, who, though impressive, is not a franchise builder. Two, it gives the Mariners a few more pieces of the rebuilding puzzle that can be used in the future to, get this, win!
Of course this is never going to happen. The ownership of the Mariners (primarily Nintendo, based in Japan) is never going to trade or release a player that appeals the team to so many Asian-Americans in the Seattle area and hails from their own country. They are as in love with him as most of the city of Seattle is.
In order for this to occur, Ichiro will have to ask to be traded. He's been here when the team wins, but mostly he's been privy to a lot of losing. Professional athletes don't like to lose and with only a few more viable All-Star years left, Ichiro needs to wake up and smell the Starbucks: Seattle is not going to win in the near future.
So Ichiro, we love you, but for our sake and yours, please ask for a trade.
Commence with the pelting.