MLB notebook: Mariners close to reunion with OF Suzuki

The Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki are close to finalizing a one-year deal for the franchise icon to return to Seattle, according to multiple reports Monday.

USA Today first reported the Mariners will bring back the 44-year-old Suzuki, who played in Seattle from 2001-12 during which he was a 10-time All-Star selection and won 10 Gold Gloves. He was the 2001 American League MVP and Rookie of the Year, and in 2004 set the major league season record for hits with 262 when he batted .372.

The Mariners are looking to add depth to their outfield with three of their top four outfielders currently dealing with injury issues. Seattle announced earlier Monday that left fielder Ben Gamel will miss four to six weeks with a strained right oblique muscle, jeopardizing his availability for Opening Day.

Suzuki spent the majority of his 17-year major league career in Seattle, signing with the Mariners in 2001 when he was 27 to begin his major league career after he had 1,278 hits while playing nine years in Japan. The Mariners traded him to the Yankees in midseason of 2012, and he spent 2 1/2 years in New York and the last three seasons in Miami. He has a career .312 batting average and 3,080 hits in the majors.

--The St. Louis Cardinals and shortstop Paul DeJong agreed to a six-year, $26 million contract extension.

"Paul moved quickly through our minor leagues and he had a breakout season last year and has shown all the attributes we look for in a player," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a statement. "We are excited to know that Paul is someone we can build around, and we look forward to seeing him in a Cardinals uniform for years to come."

The deal, one of the largest ever for a player with less than a full year of service time, also includes two options years and a total possible value slightly above $50 million. The 24-year-old DeJong batted .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBIs in 108 games for St. Louis in 2017 and finished second to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting.

--San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer may have struck gold in the Golden State, but that isn't keeping him from criticizing teams across baseball for a trend he sees as a contributing factor to veteran free agents' inability to land a new deal this offseason.

In a story by USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Padres' new $144 Million Man said that while he is very happy with his offseason, he sees a lot of "red flags" with the slow pace to the hot stove league.

"(Commissioner Rob) Manfred says the integrity of the game is first and foremost, that's what we want to protect," Hosmer said. "But the way the process went down this year, something is wrong with it. I don't think all of the teams are trying to be competitive or doing everything they can to protect the integrity of the game. If that was the case, why are guys like (former Colorado star) Carlos Gonzalez and (former Royals teammate) Mike Moustakas still on the market? That raises a lot of red flags. When you've got guys that are proven at this level, and have done it for many years at this level that are still on the market looking for jobs, that just tells you something isn't right about it."

--Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch said that Justin Verlander will start Opening Day for the reigning World Series champs.

That answers one of the Astros' burning questions entering spring training -- would Verlander or longtime Astro Dallas Keuchel get the Opening Day start?

Keuchel has spent all six of his big league seasons with the Astros, winning the 2015 AL Cy Young Award. Verlander has been on the Astros for all of six months, but the 35-year-old right-hander went 5-0 in the 2017 regular season after his acquisition from Detroit, then went 4-1 in the postseason.

--The Atlanta Braves acquired infielder Ryan Schimpf from the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named or cash.

The transaction comes two days after Tampa Bay designated the 29-year-old Schimpf for assignment. Schmipf batted .158 with 14 homers and 25 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season. He was traded to Tampa Bay in December.

Schmipf, who played third base for the Padres, smacked 34 homers in 441 at-bats in parts of two seasons in San Diego. However, the left-handed hitter batted just .195 with a staggering 175 strikeouts.

--Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester is looking to Windy City basketball legends to help with his notorious struggles to throw to bases: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

During spring training in Arizona this month, Lester is working on bouncing throws to bases, primarily first, after years of issues with making what seems to be among the easiest of throws, particularly for a pitcher.

"We've been working on the Jordan-to-Pippen bounce pass," Lester said. The 34-year-old lefty said he has been working on the technique with Cubs third-base coach Brian Butterfield.

--Field Level Media