Alfonso Soriano began the season as the Yankees’ everyday designated hitter and Ichiro Suzuki began the season on the Yankees’ bench, but now they’re being platooned in right field … at a combined salary of $25 million.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has decided to play Soriano almost exclusively versus left-handed pitching because at age 38 he’s really struggled versus right-handers this season. On the flip side, Girardi has decided to give Suzuki the heavy portion of the platoon, playing him versus right-handers, because at age 40 he’s hitting .309 with a .371 on-base percentage.
It’s a solid platoon situation, if not for the fact that both players are big names making big money, but that isn’t as much of an issue for the Yankees as it might be for other teams and, in Soriano’s case, the Cubs still are on the hook for most of his salary anyway.
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?