According to the Seattle Times, the Mariners are set to sign Ichiro Suzuki for 20 million dollars over the next five years, signaling that after a few years of financial discipline and forward thinking, the financial baseball market has gone officially and completely insane. Keeping Ichiro around for the short-term should be a priority, but the long term ramifications of this deal make Alfonso Soriano’s mega-deal with the Cubs look like Frank Thomas’ year in Oakland by comparison. Seeing Garret Anderson, Bernie Williams, and Jeff Bagwell cripple around the bases in their twilight years hasn’t exactly inspired GM’s everywhere to give older guys big contracts, has it?
Despite a few inquiries to the contrary, Ichiro is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. 200 hits a season for 10 years would put him in the pantheon for the best pure hitters in the history of the game: Cobb, Gwynn, ####*, Aaron. But as much of a reputation as Ichiro has (and you basically have to have a rep to get away with using only one name) the guy isn’t the overall offensive weapon some folks make him out to be. He doesn’t get on base regularly, he doesn’t hit for power, really all he does is hit the ball well and generally keeps it in the park, and I’m under the impression that those kinds of guys don’t age too well.
Think about it, singles hitters rely so much on their speed—to stretch out a double from a hit that would ordinarily be a single, or beat out a bunt attempt or a chop over the mound outright. Without that speed, the 30 or so extra hits a year that turn into outs can take a pretty hefty toll on a batting average, and when you don’t hit for power or walk much to begin with… a team miiiight not want to give that guy big dollars until he’s nearly 40. Throw in what seems to me like a generally mediocre performance in centerfield this year, and this has Bernie Williams territory written all over it. This is not to say that Ichiro won’t be a productive player for the next few years, but for the next five? That gets a little iffy. Are the dollars that come in from Japan with Ichiro playing really enough to make up for a 20 million dollar below average player in 2011?
The real story out of all this is the coinciding bump free agents will get in salary once this deal’s done. With a slap-hitter like Ichiro making 20 million, what will this do to the rest of baseball salaries? 20 million for Torii Hunter? 25 Million for the atrocious Adam Dunn? 30 million for Carlos Zambrano? Don’t even get me started on what A-Rod will be worth. This all started when Omar Minaya gave 13 million to the rotator cuff formally known as Pedro Martinez, and with the contemptible Scott Boras having the ear of the commissioner, chances are it’ll only get worse.
Fans everywhere are getting screwed because of this deal, and not just because that little SOB Ichiro will be terrorizing the AL for the next half decade. The increase in player salaries across the board will mean that (a) Your favorite player will be leaving for bigger money than it takes to keep him and (b) When he signs that contact, he’ll be terrible by the end of it. You mean there’s a lose-lose situation in baseball that doesn’t involve watching the Home Run derby? Count me in! The baseball financial market’s officially done lost it’s mind. Time to ride the madness, watch the carnage, and just sit back and enjoy the crazy.
*Name redacted by order from Major League Baseball and its clubs.