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Orioles Should Consider Signing Free-Agent Ichiro Suzuki

January 25, 2018
Two former Orioles are headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Admittedly, I was far more negative about the team's acquisitions of Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome late in their careers than most fans were. My frustration with signing Guerrero had little to do with him. In fact, I was a massive Guerrero fan for most of his career. My frustration was with the idea that many Orioles fans had that signing the then-36-year-old would change the team's fortunes. And while the prospects they gave up for Thome (Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino) haven't accomplished anything, I was opposed to the idea of trading anything at all for a slugger in his 40's who no longer slugged. 

But those acquisitions were indeed met with at least some amount of excitement from the fan base. Even though neither player's performance was particularly reminiscent of the height of their Hall of Fame careers, the opportunity to support them was at least fun for Orioles fans for a short time. 

I bring this up because I've had a dumb idea this offseason that I just can't shake. I think the Orioles should go down this road again and sign free-agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. 

Let me make a few things clear. First, I think the Orioles should attempt to acquire some more impactful players first. You know, the type that cost real money. Some starting pitchers would be the most desirable of that group, but a top-of-the-lineup outfield bat would also be appealing. That all being said, there's no reason to think that much of that will be happening. While the market has been slow for everyone, the Orioles have shown absolutely no signs of being willing to dip their toes in those markets. We'll see if that changes when the market eventually does finally come together. 

Second, yes, this is somewhat tongue in cheek. I'm a massive Ichiro fan. I'm not alone. He's one of the most popular players of the century and will be a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer himself five years after he finally retires. I want Ichiro to come to Baltimore because I just selfishly want the opportunity to root for Ichiro while he plays (albeit sparingly) for the team I grew up rooting for. Trips to Camden Yards this summer will be more fun if I occasionally get to stand up and cheer for one of the great hitters in the history of baseball. 

Last year's splits suggest the 44-year-old may still have at least a little something to offer as a hitter. In 51 plate appearances against left-handers, he hit .340 and reached base at a .392 clip. That's an extremely small sample size, and the then-Miami Marlin hit just .228 and reached base at a .294 clip in 164 plate appearances against right handed pitchers. What he'd actually have to offer is minimal. But he also happens to be one of the best visiting hitters in Camden Yards history. 

There are far more practical reasons to not sign Ichiro. Most notably, the team already has a roster crunch likely in the outfield with Anthony Santander, as Rule 5 pick in 2016, having to start the season on the major league roster. 

With Adam Jones entrenched in center field and Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo likely to split outfield and designated hitter at-bats, there's only a few opportunities available. The Orioles are still likely to sign at least one more player to add to the mix even if it isn't a high-level player who costs real money -- Jarrod Dyson's name has been thrown around. But whatever at-bats are remaining would probably be best served being given to young players such as Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins. 

So yeah, I'm sort of arguing against myself here.

But the truth is, this is a team that appears to lack true direction this season. They're extremely unlikely to compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League East and even a playoff run seems impossible unless there's a starting pitcher tree blossoming in Sarasota, Fla., that none of us know about. The futures of Jones, third baseman Manny Machado and injured closer Zach Britton are very much in doubt, and the identity of the team in general is just kind of unknown. 

So why not sign Ichiro? It's not going to cost anything and it might convince a few fans to consider walking up on days they hear he's in the lineup. It's probably a bad baseball decision, but we're used to those. At least this one would be fun.