Manager Eric Wedge said Thursday that he’s probably going to try Ichiro Suzuki somewhere other than at the top of the order this season.
“It’s as much to do with his teammates as it has to do with him with regard to the collective nine that we’re putting down on paper,” Wedge said. “I haven’t made any firm decisions. I made it very clear over the winter I was thinking about it. I’m even further down the road to where I’m leaning in that direction to have (Suzuki) hit somewhere else.”
Trying Ichiro as a No. 3 hitter was a popular topic for debate in Seattle when he was in his prime. Back when he was slugging .420-.450 each season, it would have made a lot of sense to put him in a position to drive in more runs.
Now, though, it’s hard to see how Ichiro would be of use anywhere except the leadoff spot. Since his strong 2009 season, he slipped to .315/.369/.394 in 2010 and .272/.310/.335 last year.
Wedge mentioned Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins as other possibilities to hit leadoff for the Mariners. Ackley is the only one of the three likely to be more productive than Ichiro, and given that he actually has some power, he’d seem to make a whole lot more sense hitting second or third.
That’s particularly the case given that the Mariners have routinely trotted out the weakest bottom of the orders of any AL squad the last few years. Shortstop Brendan Ryan stands as the likely No. 9 hitter at the moment. The third baseman — either Figgins or, preferably, Kyle Seager — could hit eighth. Mariners leadoff hitters so rarely come up with men on base that their RBI potential is wasted. Consider that Ichiro hasn’t driven in even 50 runs in a year since 2007. He had at least 60 RBI in five of his first seven seasons.
The only reason for Wedge to shift Ichiro now is for appearances. What the Mariners need is for Ichiro to at least bounce back to 2010 form and set the table for Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak below him.
Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).
Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.
While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.