The Marlins on Friday agreed to a one-year contract with 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki to become the team’s fourth outfielder, a source with direct knowledge said.
The contract, pending a physical, will pay Ichiro, who turned 41 in October, in the $2 million range. Prior to Friday’s agreement, the Marlins and Reds were the only remaining Major League Baseball teams to have a Japanese-born player on their big-league team.
A 10-time Gold Glove winner, Ichiro hit .284 for the Yankees last season and stole 15 bases in 385 plate appearances. A career .317 hitter, he was 11 for 25 (.440) as a pinch-hitter for the Yankees the last two seasons.
Tied with former Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez for 48th all-time in MLB history with 2,844 hits, Suzuki is just 156 away from becoming the 29th player to reach 3,000. With 4,122 professional hits between Japan and the U.S., Suzuki is also only 134 short of Pete Rose’s MLB record of 4,256.
Odds are, though, Suzuki won’t reach either mark in 2015 unless the Marlins lose one of their young, talented starters to injury.
As it stands, though, Ichiro’s veteran presence could be a great influence on left fielder Christian Yelich, 23, a fellow left-handed, top-of-the-order hitter who batted .284 and stole 21 bases in his first full major league season last year.
Friday’s news was already being warmly received by Suzuki’s new teammates.
“Big props to the Marlins on adding Ichiro, Japan hit king [and] my homie,” new Marlins first baseman Mike Morse wrote on Twitter.
Morse, who signed a two-year $16 million deal with the Marlins last month, played four seasons with Suzuki in Seattle.
Ichiro began his MLB career with the Mariners in 2001 and played there until joining the Yankees in 2012. He won American League batting titles twice (2001, 2004) and the MVP award the same season he won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2001.
After hitting .262 with seven homers and 35 RBI in 128 starts in 2013 for the Yankees, he batted .284 with one homer and 22 RBI in 95 starts last season in New York.
Ichiro’s addition is just another move by the Marlins in beefing up the roster around right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who signed a 13-year, $325 million deal in November with the promise the organization would build around him.
The Marlins made trades to acquire third baseman Martin Prado from the Yankees, second baseman Dee Gordon and pitcher Dan Haren from Dodgers, pitcher Mat Latos from the Reds, and then signed Morse to a free agent contract.
The club’s payroll was nearly $65 million prior to the Ichiro deal. That doesn’t include portions of contracts that will be paid by the Dodgers and Yankees in trades for Haren, Gordon and Prado.
East meets West
Japanese players who have made MLB rosters all-time (before Ichiro deal with Marlins):
Mets: 12 (Pitchers Hideo Nomo, Takashi Kashiwada, Masato Yoshii, Satoru Komiyama, Kzuhisa Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Ken Takahashi, Hisanori Takahashi, Ryota Igarashi, infielder Kazuo Matsui, outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo)
Nationals/Expos: 3 (Pitchers Tomokazu Ohka, Hideki Irabu, Masato Yoshii)
Braves: 2 (Pitchers Takashi Saito, Kenshin Kawakami)
Phillies: 2 (Outfielder So Taguchi, infielder Tadahito Iguchi)
Brewers: 7 (Outfielder Nori Aoki, pitchers Hideo Nomo, Mac Suzuki, Tomokazu Ohka, Takahito Nomura, Takashi Saito)
Cubs: 5 (Pitchers Kyuji Fujikawa, Tsuyoshi Wada, Hisanori Takahashi, outfielders So Taguchi, Kosuke Fukudome)
Pirates: 3 (Infielder Akinori Iwamura, pitchers Masumi Kuwata and Hisanori Takahashi)
Cardinals: 1 (Outfielder So Taguchi)
Dodgers: 6 (Pitchers Hideo Nomo, Masao Kida, Kazuhisa Ishii, Takashi Saito, Hiroki Kuroda, infielder Norihiro Nakamura)
Giants: 5 (Pitchers Masanori Murakami, Keiichi Yabu, outfielders Nori Aoki, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Kensuke Tanaka)
Rockies: 3 (Pitchers Mac Suzuki, Masato Yoshii, infielder Kazuo Matsui)
Padres: 2 (Pitcher Akinori Otsuka, infielder Tadahito Iguchi)
Diamondbacks: 1 (Pitcher Takashi Saito)
Yankees: 7 (Pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa, Hiroki Kuroda, Ryota Igarashi, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui)
Red Sox: 7 (Pitchers Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Hideo Nomo, Tomokazu Ohka, Takashi Saito, Hideki Okajima, Daisuke Matsuzaka)
Blue Jays: 4 (Pitchers Tomokazu Ohka, Micheal Nakamura, Ryota Igarashi, infielder Munenori Kawasaki)
Rays: 3 (Pitcher Hideo Nomo, outfielder Hideki Matsui, infielder Akinori Iwamura)
Orioles: 1 (Pitcher Koji Uehara)
Indians: 4 (Pitchers Tomokazu Ohka, Kazuhito Tadano, Masahide Kobayashi, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome)
White Sox: 3 (Pitcher Shingo Takatsu, infielder Tadahito Iguchi, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome)
Royals: 3 (Outfielder Nori Aoki, pitchers Hideo Nomo, Mac Suzuki, Yasuhiko Yabuta)
Tigers: 2 (Pitchers Hideo Nomo, Masao Kida)
Twins: 2 (Pitcher Michael Nakamura, infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka)
Mariners: 8 (Pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma, Mac Suzuki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Masao Kida, Kazuhiro Sasaki, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, catcher Kenji Johjima, infielder Munenori Kawasaki)
Rangers: 7 (Pitchers Koji Uehara, Yu Darvish, Kyuji Fujikawa, Hideki Irabu, Akinori Otsuka, Kazuo Fukumori, Yoshinori Tateyama)
Athletics: 4 (Outfielder Hideki Matsui, pitchers Keiichi Yabu, Hideki Okajima, infielder Akinori Iwamura)
Angels: 3 (Pitchers Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hisanori Takahashi, outfielder Hideki Matsui)
Astros: 1 (Infielder Kazuo Matsui)