One of the most recognizable figures in Seattle Mariners history is leaving the franchise.
The Mariners announced today that they that they have acquired a pair of minor league prospects from the New York Yankees in exchange for right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Cash considerations are also included in this trade. Reports are that the Mariners will have to pay some of the money remaining on his $18 million salary this season.
“On behalf of our ownership group and everyone in the Seattle Mariners organization, I thank Ichiro for the great career he’s had here in Seattle," Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said in a press release. “Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his long time 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 an opportunity to develop."
"When I imagined taking off a Mariners uniform, I was overcome with sadness. It was a very difficult decision to make," Ichiro said through long-time translator Ken Baron. "When I spent time during the all-star break to think, I realized this team has many players in their early 20s. I began to think I should not be on this team next year when I thought about the future of this team. I also started to feel a desire to be in atmosphere that I could have different kind of stimulation I can have right now. If that was the case, it would be the best decision for both parties involved that I leave the team as soon as possible. Thank you to the Mariners organization for accepting my request."
Oddly, Mariners fans will see Ichiro tonight in Seattle with the Yankees playing at Safeco Field. He is penciled into the Yankees lineup tonight batting ninth and in left field. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he would like to talk with Ichiro first before finalizing the lineup.
"We feel he brings a speed element and a tremendous hitter," Girardi said.
Girardi said the plan is for Ichiro to play left field mainly, while Nick Swisher will remain the starter in right field.
" I haven't played left field in a long time," Ichiro said. "The last time I played left field was in my first playoff game in Yankee Stadium."
There were some reports that the Ichiro trade might be an early signal that the Mariners franchise - owned by the Japanese corporation, Nintendo - might be for sale. Lincoln said those rumors were "absolute nonsense."
Clad in a sharp suit, Ichiro showed emotion that he hasn't always shown in his time in Seattle
"I would like express my gratitude to the fans," he said. "Thank you for the last 11 1/2 years. Starting in 2001, whether the team played well, or bad, whether I hit good or bad, I'm overcome with emotion when I think about my feelings during that time spent with the fans."
The Mariners have received right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar from the Yankees. Mitchell (40-man) and Farquhar (non-40-man) will both report to AAA Tacoma. The Mariners 40-man roster remains full at 40.
Mitchell, 25, has spent most of the season pitching with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 6-4 with a 5.04 ERA (48 ER, 85.2 IP) in 15 games, 14 starts. He limited opponents to a .261 (85x326) average, while walking 29 and striking out 72. Mitchell made his Major League debut this season with New York on May 5 vs. Baltimore, allowing 2 hits and striking out 1 in 1.0 scoreless inning. He appeared in 4 games in relief, going 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA (2 ER, 4.2 IP) over two stints with the Yankees, April 29-May 4 and June 30-July 18. Mitchell was originally selected by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He was rated the #16 prospect in the New York organization by Baseball America entering this season.
In four minor league season, Mitchell is 44-24 with a 3.56 ERA (213 ER, 538.0 IP) in 94 games, 87 starts. He has limited opponents to a .253 average (511x2019), while walking 200 and striking out 421.
Farquhar, 25, has split the 2012 season between the Toronto, Oakland and New York (AL) organizations. This season he has combined to go 2-3 with 5 saves and a 3.33 ERA (19 ER, 51.1 IP) with 54 strikeouts in 32 games, all in relief. He was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 2008 June Amateur Draft out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
In five minor league seasons he is a combined 14-17 with 59 saves and a 3.06 ERA (96 ER, 282.2 IP) with 290 strikeouts in 280 relief appearances. He made his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, tossing 2.0 innings in three appearances.
Ichiro, 38, is a 10-time American League All-Star who tops the Mariners franchise in hits, runs scored, triples and at-bats. He was the American League Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in 2001, his first for the Mariners after nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Japan’s Pacific League.
After leading the Pacific League in batting and winning Gold Gloves during all seven of his full seasons, Ichiro became the first position player to play and succeed in the United States. He led the American League in batting average twice and the Major Leagues in hits seven times (tying Ty Cobb and Pete Rose for the most all-time). His 10 consecutive seasons (2001-2010) with 200 or more hits is also a Major League record, including a record 262 hits in 2004. The rightfielder owns a long list of Mariners club records as well as all-time MLB marks.
Internationally, Ichiro was instrumental in two World Baseball Classic titles won by Japan in 2006 and 2009. He is now in the final season of a five-year agreement, currently batting .261 with 4 home runs, 28 runs batted in and 15 stolen bases.
Listen to the Ichiro press conference: