The Ichiro era in Seattle is over and it came to a close in one of the weirdest ways possible.
In a strange twist, the 38-year-old Japanese superstar didn't immediately leave Safeco Field after being traded on Monday afternoon. Ichiro instead made the short walk over to the visitor's clubhouse and donned the uniform of the ... wait for it ... New York Yankees, who are in town for a three-game series.
Seriously, the horde of Japanese media that has followed Ichiro around the country since he arrived in America in 2001 could not have written it any better.
The bombshell news was first reported by Jack Curry of YES Network and later confirmed by a tweet from MLB. The Mariners will receive Triple-A pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar in return for Ichiro and an unspecified amount of money.
In a release, Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said Ichiro had requested the trade:
"Several weeks ago, Ichiro Suzuki, through his long time agent, Tony Attanasio, approached Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him. Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop.
"Ichiro will be missed. He owns a long list of Major League Baseball and Mariners club records, has earned many prestigious awards, and in my opinion, he will someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ichiro is in the last year of a deal that pays him $18 million per season and his future in Seattle had recently become a hot topic with former Mariner Jay Buhner making headlines by saying he'd "vomit" if Seattle re-signed Ichiro to another contract.
Neither Mitchell nor Farquhar can be described as a prized prospect and it's not surprising the Mariners couldn't garner a bigger return from the Yankees' search for outfield depth. What's more surprising is that they were able to get anything in return at all. Ichiro is mired in the worst season of his American career, hitting just .261/.288/.353 and sporting a career-low OPS+ of 83 (a stat where league average is 100).
Perhaps Ichiro will feel rejuvenated after being traded from a last-place team that's 42-55 to a first-place team that's 57-38. And perhaps he'll one day wear a Mariners uniform again, either to 1) notch North American hit No. 3,000 (currently a long shot with Ichiro sitting at 2,533) or to 2) ceremonially close out a fantastic career that began with the singles hitter winning the 2001 AL MVP and Rookie of the Year with the 116-win team.
But for now this deal makes the most sense. With Ichiro currently contributing more to the controversy on Seattle's sports talk radio waves than on the field for the Mariners, it was time for both sides to see other people. It's good to see that both sides agreed.
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