Miami had one of baseball's best outfields in 2014, and the club is expecting its starting core to be solid against this season. Adding Ichiro Suzuki on a one-year deal gives the Marlins notable outfield depth, but as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro points out, the organization will have to find time for Suzuki, who is in pursuit of 3,000 hits.
One of manager Mike Redmond's challenges will be finding enough playing time for everyone, particularly Suzuki.
Miami reached agreement on a one-year, $2 million deal with the 41-year-old on Friday. The signing is expected to be announced sometime this week.
Suzuki, 41, has notable experience and is expected to help in Miami's clubhouse. But with Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna all taking strides last season, Redmond will have to find and take advantage of situations in which Suzuki can either make a spot start or appear late in games. He will most likely do both many times in 2015, but if all three of the Marlins' outfielders are having success at the same time, finding a way to utilize Suzuki may become a challenge.
While Suzuki enters the season with 2,844 career hits to his name, the veteran's ability to pinch hit may dictate the amount of playing time he receives. The Marlins' bench was inconsistent a season ago, but when Jeff Baker, for example, was swinging a hot bat, he was slotted into the lineup. Since the departure of Greg Dobbs, the Marlins have not had a consistent left-handed pinch hitter. Ichiro will likely prove to be that.
Reed Johnson was the club's fourth outfielder last season, and had 201 plate appearances. Johnson, though, has the reputation of playing in certain situations, while Suzuki is versatile and has experience playing all three outfield positions.
As Frisaro notes, the Marlins are hoping Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton can all play at least 150 games. Stanton has yet to play in a live game situation since being hit last September, and could be hesistant at the plate, although he is reportedly fine physically and mentally.
Signing Ichiro gives the Marlins depth, but the challenge will be getting him consistent playing time. Slumps are realistic, and as a result, Suzuki should at least receive a fair number of at-bats.