Eric Hinske proved himself to be a useful bench player last year — and he had a shot at being a playoff hero if Brooks Conrad hadn’t intervened — and as a result, the Braves quickly offered him a contract last week, reported to be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million. Atlanta has some competition, however, as Tim Brown is reporting that the Brewers are interested too.
Hinske is a nice player to have around on a year-to-year basis, but if his newly-found popularity results in him demanding two years or substantially more dollars, the Braves should probably cut bait. They need whatever financial flexibility that have to shore up center field and the bullpen and can’t be making largish commitment to corner guys with some pop.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.
I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.
Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.
Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?