Len Kasper signs five-year extension to stay Cubs’ announcer

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Len Kasper will be the Cubs’ television play-by-play announcer through at least 2016 after signing a five-year contract extension, according to Barry Rozner of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Kasper has been paired with Bob Brenly on Cubs games since 2005 and they’re among my favorite duos. They have a very friendly, natural on-air rapport that suggests they might actually like each other away from the microphones, and in addition to being a good play-by-play guy Kasper is also one of the few announcers who successfully incorporates some sabermetric insights into the broadcast.

Brenly’s deal is up after the 2012 season and Rozner speculates that the Cubs will try to sign him long term next.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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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?