Making a move no one thought they would ever do (because of their Japanese ownership), or had the guts to do, the Mariners traded fading franchise icon Ichiro to the New York Yankees Monday in exchange for a pair of minor league prospects and cash considerations. Ichiro, in the last year of a four-year contract that pays him $18 million this season, initiated trade talks, Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln said.
The Mariners received a pair of 25-year-old, right-handed pitchers: D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Mitchell (40-man) and Farquhar (non-40-man) will report to AAA Tacoma.
News that Ichiro had been traded shocked the Mariners' clubhouse.
"I'm in complete disbelief," said outfielder Michael Saunders. "Generally you'll have a idea about who will get traded before the trading deadline (July 31), but I never thought it would be the face of the franchise for the last 11 years. Now he'll be here in pinstripes (the Yankees and Mariners open a three-game series Monday at Safeco Field), and I'm in complete disbelief."
Lincoln said, “On behalf of our ownership group and everyone in the Seattle Mariners organization, I thank Ichiro for the great career he’s had here in Seattle.
“Several weeks ago, Ichiro, through his longtime agent, Tony Attanasio, approached Chuck Armstrong and me to ask that the Mariners consider trading him.
"Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop.
“Ichiro will be missed. He owns a long list of Major League Baseball and Mariners club records, has earned many prestigious awards, and in my opinion, he will someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I know that I speak for all of Ichiro’s fans, both here in the Pacific Northwest, around this country and also throughout Japan, in wishing him and his wife Yumiko the very best as he continues his baseball career with the Yankees.”
Ichiro made the American League All-Star team in each of his first 10 seasons, won the 2001 AL Most Valuable Player Award, the 2007 All-Star Game MVP award, and had 200 or more hits in 10 consecutive seasons (2001-10). He also won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves over that span.
Ichiro's numbers took a free-fall in 2011 when he batted .272 -- well below his then-career average of .331 -- and failed to collect 200 hits for the first time in his career. He also missed selection to the AL All-Star team and didn't win an 11th Gold Glove.
Ichiro has continued his slide this season. He is hitting a career-low .261, aided in part by a recent 0-for-23 slide, a career worst.
Manager Eric Wedge removed Ichiro as the club's leadoff hitter to start the season, dropped him to third, moved him back to first, and then dropped him to second. Nothing helped. In fact, Ichiro is hitting just .208 in July and his on-base percentage for the season is .288.
Ichiro is the franchise's all-time leader in base hits (2,533), batting average (.322), at-bats (7,858), triples (99) and stolen bases (438). He ranks second in games (1,844) and runs scored (1,176).