The prevailing thought didn’t hit Ichiro Suzuki on a torrid day in Boston, or in Kansas City, or even at Safeco Field where he had spent 12 seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
It occurred over time: The writing was on the wall.
The Mariners were embarking on a youth movement of players in their mid-20s. Ichiro turns 39 in October.
So when the Mariners’ brass – chairman Howard Lincoln, team president Chuck Armstrong and general manager Jack Zduriencik – approached him again in June about a contract extension, the reply though his agent, Tony Attanasio, was definitive.
And on Monday, the Mariners obliged, sending the 10-time American League All-Star outfielder to the New York Yankees in exchange for two mid-level pitching prospects and cash considerations.
Ichiro was penciled into the Yankees’ lineup later Monday in Seattle – playing right field and batting eighth. New York manager Joe Girardi indicated that left field will be his regular position, although he occasionally will spell Nick Swisher in right.
“Tony made it clear that Ichiro had made up his mind,” Lincoln said. “I accepted that, and didn’t feel it was necessary to argue.”
Zduriencik said talks of a trade began in the past couple weeks. It wasn’t until the day after the All-Star Game in Kansas City – July 11 – when the two parties sat down and hammered out the outline of a deal.
“I spent time at the All-Star Break to think,” Ichiro said. “I realized this is a team with a lot of players in their early 20s. I began to think I should not be on this team next year. I think it is the best decision for both parties.”
A few teams came forward, which Armstrong declined to identify. The Yankees were an enticing trading partner, and were in the market for a speed outfielder after losing Brett Gardner for the season.
Ichiro indicated he would approve the deal – a big step considering he has 10-year, five-years-with-one-organization veto power.
And on Monday, the deal was finalized: The Yankees got their proven hitter, and the Mariners received starter D.J. Mitchell and reliever Danny Farquhar, both 25 years old. Both will report to Triple-A Tacoma.
New York will also pay part of the remaining $5.5 million of Ichiro’s remaining $17 million contact – in its final season of a five-year deal.
“I am going from the team with the most losses to the team that has the most wins,” Ichiro said. “It is hard to contain my excitement in that regard.”
Even though Ichiro was batting .261 for the Mariners this season, Zduriencik thinks the Yankees will get a resurgent star now that he is in a different setting.
“I am hoping he gets re-energized by this,” Zduriencik said. “Certainly a different surrounding cast should help him as well. There shouldn’t be as much pressure on him. He’s got a bunch of All-Stars, and some Hall-of-Famers there. It is very nice, and very unique for him.”
As far as the timing of the trade, allowing Ichiro to debut for his new team in his old ballpark, Zduriencik said the most important consideration was simple – honoring his right-fielder’s request.
“You just do it,” Zduriencik said.