Ichiro Suzuki’s days as a Marlin are over.
Whether the team’s decision to part company with the 44-year-old outfielder, one of baseball’s all-time greats, also spells the end of his storied Major League career remains to be seen.
In what was the first significant roster decision for new ownership, the Marlins on Friday declined their $2 million club option to retain Ichiro, who now becomes a free agent. Suzuki will receive a $500,000 buyout.
While Suzuki has said numerous times that he would like to continue playing until he’s 50, there’s no guarantee he’ll find a Major League team willing to give him a job.
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Suzuki, who is in the twilight of a spectacular career and ranks 22nd on the all-time list with 3,080 hits, saw very little playing time last season in the Marlins outfield. He started 22 games last season while setting a big-league mark with 109 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.
Because the Marlins are expected to trade one or more of their three outfielders -- Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich -- it created the possibility of additional playing time for Suzuki, at least on a part-time basis.
Suzuki and Derek Jeter, the Marlins’ new chief executive officer and part owner, have a mutual respect and admiration that goes back to their days together as teammates on the New York Yankees.
But the Marlins are slashing payroll to about $90 million, and the $2 million it would have required to hang on to Suzuki was considered too great to bear.
In all, Suzuki spent three seasons with the Marlins, during which he reached the 3,000-hit milestone.
A sure-bet Hall of Famer, Suzuki would be eligible for induction into Cooperstown in 2023 if he is unable to find a job with a new team and his Major League career comes to an end.
In announcing their decision to part ways with Suzuki, the Marlins also announced they had claimed catcher Chad Wallach off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Wallach, the son of Marlins bench coach Tim Wallach, was traded with Anthony Desclafani to the Reds for pitcher Mat Latos in 2014. He is a former fifth-round draft pick for the Marlins.