After Ichiro trade, more disappointment for Mariners fans?
For many Mariners fans, the surprising news of Ichiro Suzuki's trade to the Yankees is still sinking in. Now comes word that another big name could be leaving the team next week.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel talks about why it wasn't too hard to say goodbye to Ichiro...and who might be next.
Ichiro kept his distance
Art says a lot of fans don't appear too heartbroken over Ichiro's departure. But he does leave a legacy behind.
"I don't think Ichiro ever really connected in a deep way with the sports fans here. He certainly had a tremendous career and was capable of spectacular plays. And as a breakthrough figure for the Japanese, he's iconic and will remain so forever. But he, generally speaking, held his teammates, the media and fans at arm's length - and kind of locked the elbow. He was a part of things but also was apart."
Past expiration date
Art says Ichiro had outlived his usefulness to the Mariners.
"I believe that most people recognized that at the end of his career here, he was in the way. There were young players were ready to take his spot, he wasn't productive, a singles hitter is not what this team needs - certainly not at $18 million dollars."
Why the Yankees, and why for so little in return?
Ichiro wanted to play for a quality contender. And Art says the Yankees have a long history of taking guys near the end of their careers and still squeezing productive games out of them.
"But he really had no value to trade for because he's in his contract year, he will be a free agent at the end of the year. And so the Mariners just took a couple of middling prospects - 25-year-old pitchers - that probably will never see a Mariner uniform, at least at the Major League level. The big bonus that the Mariners got out of this was not only the Yankees paying half of his remaining $7 million salary this year, but they got rid of him before they had to offer him an extension."
Will another big name leave town?
Art says Tuesday's trade deadline may mean another key player departing.
"Jason Vargas has been pitching very well as a starter. Tom Wilhelmsen suddenly is becoming one of the best relievers in baseball. And I would say they are both vulnerable to be traded."
With a fifth playoff team added to each league this year, more teams are in contention for the offseason. Art says, since the Mariners have no shot at it, they're in a good position to deal. But would star pitcher Felix Hernandez be in that mix?
"The Mariners are, again, looking for young, veteran Major League hitters who've proven themselves but still have two, three, four years left on their contracts. And for the Mariners to get that, they'd have to give away the farm again - like Michael Pineda (to the Yankees for Jesus Montero) or Doug Fister (to the Tigers for Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush). Now, maybe Jason Vargas. General Manager Jack Zduriencik says they're going to keep their hands off Felix but...we'll see."
You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.