23, 24, 25, 41. Those are the ages of the four main outfield players on the 2015 Marlins roster. The "41" immediately stands out as the anomaly in that list, and Ichiro Suzuki is that anomaly. The seemingly ageless Japanese superstar has come to Miami on a one-year deal worth $2 million. He is 156 hits away from 3,000 career MLB hits and 134 hits away from Pete Rose's all-time professional hits record. However, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, he is not only playing to achieve these feats:
"The number 3,000, that is a pretty big goal and that is a goal of mine," Ichiro said. "But that is not the reason I play the game of baseball. Obviously, I have other goals and motivations that have kept me here wanting to play. I don't think you can play the game if that's your only goal, and I have other goals I want to accomplish."
One of those goals might be to win a World Series. With the new additions the Marlins have made this winter, this just might be a possibility. With the likes of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, the Fish have a very talented group of young players. The aforementioned trio all man outfield positions though, so this leaves Ichiro on the bench as a fourth outfielder. What a fourth outfielder he could be for the Marlins.
As an almost certain Hall of Famer, Ichiro can serve as a mentor to Miami's young nucleus, especially the outfielders. His numbers have somewhat diminished over the years, but his acquisition greatly improves the Marlins' bench. His .284 average from a year ago was way higher than (last year's fourth outfielder) Reed Johnson's .235. Health will be a determining factor in whether the Marlins reach the playoffs this season, especially that of the heavily relied upon outfield. With Ichiro waiting in the wings, one of the starting outfielders could have a day off to rest a knock without the team risking a game due to the average play of a replacement player, as Ichiro is no average replacement. This will be crucial as the team does not want it's stars playing injured and risking missing a significant amount of the season.
Ichiro was a bench player for the Yankees last season, so his role this season won't require him to adjust too much. He feels like he has more to give to the sport and the Marlins will give him many opportunities to demonstrate this. Besides, which team wouldn't utilize the services of one of the best hitters in the history of baseball as much as possible? Moving to Miami has made Ichiro feel youthful, and this will only benefit the club as he may be called upon more than any other fourth outfielder in the majors. Barring any major injuries, we will mainly see Ichiro Suzuki in pinch-hit and double-switch situations. At the plate, his mastery at putting the ball in play will create more opportunities for the Marlins than the free-swingers which have often occupied that role in the past. In the field, Suzuki still has tremendous range and arm strength for someone in their 40s.
Signing Ichiro has catapulted the Marlins into the international spotlight as 90 of the team's games will be shown in Japan this year. He has also created a media frenzy in Jupiter. The Japanese press cover his every move and this has only intensified the upbeat tone of Marlins spring training this year. Confidence is often a key to success and, with all the media attention from the winter moves, the team is full of it. For $2 million, Miami has added what could be a priceless piece to their roster down the stretch. The world is literally watching the Marlins this year. Let's hope that they are still watching in late October.