Mariners GM expects to re-sign impending free agent Ichiro Suzuki despite declining production

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Ichiro Suzuki is a 38-year-old impending free agent having the worst season of his brilliant career, hitting .258 with a .286 on-base percentage and .345 slugging percentage, but Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made it very clear that he has no plans to trade the outfielder and in fact expects to re-sign him for next season.

“He’s going to be a Mariner,” Zduriencik told Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com. “We intend to keep him. I’m telling you, he’s going to be a Mariner. He’s a big part of this team. He’s a franchise player here, and we have phenomenal respect for him.”

Suzuki presumably feels the same way about wanting to remain in Seattle, but he turns 39 in October and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut from his current $17 million salary. Not only isn’t he worth anywhere near that kind of money at this point, Suzuki has declined to the point that he’s one of the worst hitters in the league.

Dating back to the beginning of last season he’s hit .267 with a .301 on-base percentage and .339 slugging percentage in 249 games, producing a .640 OPS that ranks 125th out of the 129 players to appear in at least 200 games during that time.

It’s tough to blame the Mariners for not wanting to cut ties with Suzuki, but the only way that makes any kind of objective, on-field sense for them is if he takes a massive pay cut to finish his career in Seattle.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.