Finding a fourth outfielder was on the Marlins' list of priorities after the organization extended Giancarlo Stanton. Ichiro Suzuki was not. But after the two sides were able to work out a deal that can be worth up to $5 million, one of Major League Baseball's best outfields just got even better.
Suzuki, 41, posted a .284/.324/.340 batting line to complement one home run and 22 RBIs in 143 games with the Yankees last season. Age is a key component, however the Marlins were seeking a veteran, and Suzuki has a notable amount of experience. He has played for contending teams and teams that are rebuilding. That should prove to be beneficial, since the Marlins are somewhere in between.
Although advanced metrics may suggest Suzuki will regress offensively in 2015, it may not be notable. He was once a consistent .300 hitter, but is still a key bat, and one that is close to 3,000 career hits. Suzuki will likely not be in the lineup more than twice or three times a week, if that, but his presence should also prove to improve the clubhouse. The Marlins add Suzuki to a group of leaders featuring Michael Morse, Martin Prado, Jeff Mathis, and Stanton.
The Marlins had a solid outfield in 2014, led by Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, and the trio should only improve in 2015. Unless one of the three gets hurt, Suzuki will not see much starting time. But that might make him that much more useful late in games.
By adding Suzuki, the Marlins not only addressed the need for a fourth outfielder, but they also added a left-handed pinch hitter. The Marlins typically break spring training with one lefty to come off the bench in the later innings, and Suzuki should prove to be valuable in that respect, too. He is also flexible defensively, which could be valuable for the Marlins' younger outfield as the season progresses.
Miami was open to a multiyear deal with Ichiro, but ultimately settled for the one-year contract. The deal could benefit both parties, as the Marlins could look to upgrade again next offseason, and Suzuki could find a new squad where he can earn a starting spot.
Before signing Suzuki, the Marlins considered trading Dan Haren for a fourth outfielder. Since Miami does not want to include a large portion of Haren's 2015 salary, which it received from Los Angeles, in a potential deal, Haren has not been drawing much interest. As a result, the Marlins will likely benefit from not using him to acquire another outfielder.
Suzuki was not too expensive, and should continue to thrive. The Marlins' outfield was not a problem in 2014, and it now looks even better for 2015.