Ichiro

Ichiro got traded to the New York Yankees for RHP Danny Farquhar and RHP D.J. Mitchell. Let's get the most uninteresting part out of the way, scouting Farquhar and Mitchell.

Danny Farquhar is a diminutive 25-year-old reliever that has bounced around some, clocking some very brief time in the majors in 2011. He was a 10th round draft pick in 2008 out of the Lousiana Lafayette. Farquhar consistently posts solid AAA numbers, and maybe he could produce some decent innings in an MLB bullpen. However, Farquhar is what he is, organizational depth.

D.J. Mitchell is an undersized right-hander (though not as undersized as Farquhar) out of Clemson University. He has an ERA over 5.00 in the rather pitcher-friendly International League (AAA). He was also a 10th round draft pick in 2008. He is now 25 years old, and for the most part has posted decent enough numbers to get steadily promoted through the minors. He looks like organizational depth.

In other words, the Mariners got nothing for Ichiro (with all due respect to Farquhar and Mitchell). These are pitchers who could contribute, but in much the same way that Josh Kinney currently contributes to the Mariners. These are the kinds of pitchers that Jack Zduriencik is able to consistently find as minor league free agents to fill out his bullpen. They aren't the type of guys a team really needs to trade for.

Then again, with all due respect to Ichiro, the Mariners did not give up a highly valuable contributor at this point. Ichiro is a 38-year-old outfielder in the final year of his contract. His performance dipped considerably last season, and it hasn't rebounded much, if at all. Overpaid, over-the-hill superstars just months away from free agency due do not cost much to acquire, shockingly enough. From the Yankees perspective, that's the kind of player they just acquired.*

*Maybe. Ichiro's road numbers are much better than at home (.297 batting average versus .214), as is the case with virtually every Mariner. Perhaps Ichiro will be a decent hitter for the Yankees. Time will tell.

From the Mariners perspective, and particularly Mariner fans, we just lost a franchise icon. We lost this:


And we lost this:


We lost a majority of the memories that might have actually made other team's fans jealous the past decade. What feels worse, we lost them to an evil empire (the Yankees) that will eat all some of Ichiro's remaining salary, and as a result did not have to give up much beyond what the Mariners could have found floating around minor league free agency.

How can a franchise icon be worth so little? How could the Mariners allow the Yankees to take our Ichiro away like this?

The missing link is Ichiro himself. He stated it clearly in his press conference: he wanted a trade. He saw the youth movement underway, and as he put it (through his interpreter), wanted an environment that "stimulated him differently." Read between the lines - Ichiro wants to win the World Series.

Can you blame Ichiro? He hasn't tasted the postseason since his rookie year, and he wasn't about to get back there with the Mariners this year. Plus, with the emergence of Michael Saunders and Casper Wells, the outfield looks a bit more crowded than it has in recent years. Would Ichiro really want to stay on a bad ballclub and eat up playing time from someone younger when he knows the team would probably prefer to go younger? Or, would Ichiro rather get a shot at the World Series with regular playing time?

The Ichiro trade stings, no doubt, but this is about as noble as trades come. Ichiro wanted out, and the Mariners honored his request both literally and in spirit. Ichiro will play in the postseason for the first time since he was a rookie. He deserves that chance, and the Mariners gave him that opportunity even though they got talent in return that they could find in minor-league free agency.

However, the Mariners are winners here too. The trade was announced with a joint press conference, where Ichiro formally said goodbye to Seattle, and then hello to New York. That wouldn't happen if Ichiro had left as a free agent. His first game not as a Mariner will be in Safeco Field, which on one hand will be terribly awkward, but on the other hand is the rarest of chances to immediately acknowledge his past contributions and say farewell. It took a decade before we got to acknowledge Ken Griffey Jr. similarly, when he came back as a member of the Reds. Ichiro gave the Mariners just about the only way to move on that would not come across as disrespecting him.

My main point is that the Mariners and Ichiro were at a crossroads anyway. He is no longer a superstar. He was going to have to take a paycut at the very least. The Mariners were also going to have to drop him in the lineup order, or play him less, and then maybe let him walk away from the team in free agency. Things had already changed between the Mariners and Ichiro, yet they were in this awkward dance trying to make it seem like things were like they have been for the past decade.

The pressure is off now. It hurts to so starkly see that Ichiro is a part of the Mariners past, but this will ultimately be seen as a healthy day for both Ichiro and the Mariners organization. The Mariners need to be defined by their rebuilding effort. Ichiro's missing piece to his legacy is a World Series ring, the farthest thing from a rebuilding effort imaginable. I hope both sides get what they desire.