Miami signed Ichiro Suzuki to serve as a backup outfielder but the Marlins have used in him in a variety of roles since. With Christian Yelich on the disabled list and the Marlins lacking immediate outfield depth, Suzuki has been slotted into the starting lineup, and the signing may already be paying off.
After extending Giancarlo Stanton in November, the Marlins opted to add the 41-year old veteran to their outfield mix. Acknowledging he did not have a notable amount of National League playing experience, the club planned to use him as a left-handed pinch hitter. But with Yelich suffering from back pain just a few weeks into the season, Suzuki has responded to an increased amount of playing time.
Suzuki posted a .284/.324/.340 batting line to complement 22 RBIs in 143 games with the Yankees last season. The Marlins also felt he would be a quality addition to their clubhouse, and in 24 games to this point in 2015, Suzuki has posted a .266/.314/.344 line. His only home run of the season came against the Mets on the last home stand and gave the Marlins late insurance.
When the Marlins placed Yelich on the 15-day disabled list, the expectation was Suzuki would step in until he was set to return. Suzuki batted in the leadoff spot on Sunday afternoon against the Phillies but has also been slotted in the middle of the lineup. Suzuki has displayed his athleticism early, most notably when bunting for a base hit.
Miami is expected to activate Yelich on Thursday in San Francisco, and as a result, Suzuki will again become a backup outfielder or pinch hitter late in games. He can also give Marcell Ozuna and Stanton a day off, and because of his early success may see more playing time. Ultimately, the Marlins opted to sign Suzuki in order to add a veteran bat and outfield option. He has proven to be just that early this season, and could become more valuable as the season progresses.