SEATTLE – Seattle Mariners icon Ichiro Suzuki was traded to the New York Yankees on Monday. The 38-year-old outfielder, a 10-time All-Star with the Mariners, whom he joined in 2001, was dealt in exchange for cash and two minor league prospects after Suzuki requested Seattle trade him.
Ichiro the American League’s 2001 Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, has 2,533 career hits since joining Seattle through the posting system from Japan’s Orix BlueWave.
A .322 career hitter in the big leagues, Ichiro is batting .261 with 49 runs scored in 95 games this season. In exchange, the Mariners received right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
“Thinking of leaving a team you’ve played so long for is sad, and extremely difficult,” Ichiro said during a news conference at Seattle’s Safeco Field before the Mariners were to play the Yankees. “During the All-Star break, I had time to think things over. I decided there was no need for me on a team being built around players in their early 20s.
“Personally, I felt I might be better off in new surroundings.”
The Yankees, who have the best record in the major leagues, are in need of outfield depth. New York manager Joe Girardi said Ichiro fills the void left since left fielder Brett Gardner was hurt.
“Obviously, we’re very excited with what has happened today, with the caliber of player we are getting,” Girardi said. “We feel he brings a speed element, and he’s a tremendous hitter. That speed element is something we lost when Gardy had surgery.”
“Sometimes you need to create a run, and his (Ichiro’s) defense is going to be outstanding. He’s got 10 Gold Gloves.”
Ichiro, who opened this season with the Mariners at Tokyo Dome, said his desire was to play with winners who wanted him on their side. “Of course, I had preferences and I let the team know that, but as far as saying what I wouldn’t do or who I wouldn’t play for, there was none of that,” said Ichiro, who expressed his deep regard for the Mariners’ fans and the organization backed by Japanese game maker Nintendo.
“For 11½ years, the fans have supported me through good times and bad, and so the image of the day when I would no longer wear the team’s uniform filled me with sadness.”
Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said, “I will miss seeing the most exciting all-around baseball player that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The trade gives Ichiro his first chance to reach the World Series since the Yankees defeated the Mariners in the 2001 American League Championship Series.
“I’ve played baseball for a long time, but my only experience with the playoffs was in 2001,” said Ichiro, who played in the Japan Series in 1995 and 1996. “I can’t speak about what it feels like to play in a World Series, but after spending some time with the Yankees, that’s an experience I look forward to earning.”
When asked what challenges he expected to face with the fabled Yankees, Ichiro joked that the move will force him to be smoother with the media.
“Just sitting here and listening to how well the manager fields questions, obviously I’m going to improve my countermeasures for dealing with interviews and the like,” Ichiro said.