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.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.