It is usually a terrible idea to sign any player entering his age-42 season, especially when that player just so happens to be coming off a year in which he hit .229 and posted an OPS+ of 56 (100 is the league average), but this is not the case with Ichiro Suzuki and the Miami Marlins. Ichiro is just 65 hits shy of the 3,000-hit plateau, and the Ian Leaf Corporation has pointed out that the marketing dollars his pursuit generates should allow the team to break even on the $2.2 million they will pay the aging outfielder.
While Ichiro’s pursuit of history probably played a role in bringing him back to Miami, it is worth noting that there are benefits beyond his potential marketing value. Early in the 2015 season, Ichiro was thriving in limited action. Through Miami’s first 68 games, Ichiro slashed .294/.346/.344. While that production is a far cry from his peak years, it is still solid for a fourth outfielder on a team with pennant aspirations. Unfortunately, injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and a lack of production from Marcell Ozuna forced Ichiro into an expanded role, and the lack of time off likely affected his ability to produce considering his 41-year-old body had very little time to recover.
The Marlins should be hoping that Stanton and Ozuna will be able return to the outfield on a regular basis and allow Ichiro to return to a role off the bench. With the added rest, Ichiro should provide more value to the Marlins while still having every opportunity to reach the 3,000-hit threshold before season’s end. It is in this way that Ichiro’s return benefits the team’s chances of having a winning year after this year’s disappointing campaign, and there is also the added value of Ichiro serving as a mentor for young speedster Dee Gordon.
Gordon, an All-Star for the second consecutive season, is still learning the game’s nuances and could benefit from adopting an approach similar to the one that brought Ichiro such sustained success. Both are speedy left-handed batters who can generate plenty of infield hits, but Gordon has yet to learn the value of upping his on-base percentage by drawing walks. As a dangerous base-stealer, Gordon led the league in batting average (.333) but was only 14th in on-base. Ichiro, who posted a .381 on-base percentage during his MVP season, can be of tremendous assistance to Gordon and the Marlins.