Receiving little interest from Major League Baseball teams as a free agent this offseason, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki could end up returning to Japan to finish his career.
"I don't really like to think about that," Ichiro's agent, John Boggs, told MLB.com on Tuesday. "As every day goes by, I keep holding out hope that somebody will realize that he would be a tremendous asset for any organization."
Ichiro, 44, wants to continue playing baseball in some form. With the Miami Marlins last season, he hit .255 with a .318 on-base percentage, a .332 slugging percentage, three home runs and 20 RBIs in 196 at-bats across 136 games as a reserve outfielder and pinch hitter. He had 27 pinch hits, falling one short of tying the single-season record set by John Vander Wal in 1995.
The Marlins' new ownership paid $500,000 to buy Ichiro out of his $2 million club option for 2018, thus making him a free agent. Boggs told MLB.com that he has had extensive conversations with the Seattle Mariners, where Ichiro was a 10-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, and the San Diego Padres, but both teams have moved on.
"We had great hopes at the beginning of all this that the Mariners would bring him back," Boggs said. "I wish there was more activities with clubs. I understand there are a lot of outfielders still out there."
Ichiro said last year that he hopes to play baseball until he is at least 50 years old. He was asked about the possibility of returning to play in Japan when speaking with Japanese reporters last week.
"When you use the word possibility, there are many things ... it means anything is possible as long as it's not zero." Suzuki said, per the Kyodo news agency.
"I feel like a big dog at a pet shop that hasn't been sold. Of course, I want to play baseball next year."
Ichiro has 3,080 hits across his 17-year major league career, which began as American League MVP and Rookie of the Year with the Mariners in 2001. In his Japanese career, spent with the then-Orix BlueWave of the Japan Pacific League from 1992-2000, he registered 1,278 hits, giving him an all-time professional record of 4,358 hits.
"We're just waiting for the next shoe to drop," Boggs said. "We keep being told, 'Check back, check back,' and I can say that with a half-dozen teams."
--Field Level Media