The question keeps popping up – if the Seattle Mariners fall out of the American League West race, will they trade Ichiro before the July 31 deadline.
Of course, they could.
Almost certainly, they won’t.
Those who watch the game, from fans to scouts, and argue the talents of Ichiro and how he chooses to maximize – or minimize – them on the field. That’s an argument for another day.
What he will want from the Mariners after this season will almost certainly be more than he’d be worth on the open market. The bet here is that Seattle will pay it.
Not because he’s the best player on the team. Not because he’s irreplaceable.
The Mariners will overpay to keep Ichiro because their principle owner, Hiroshi Yamouchi, will tell them to do so. It was Yamouchi’s influence, remember, that had the Mariners pursue and land Kenji Johjima when the team wasn’t looking for a catcher.
It makes no sense that he would watch Ichiro walk away.
The bigger issue is what it will take – beyond cash – to keep Ichiro. He is not a fan of manager Mike Hargrove, not pleased with the direction of the franchise.
Which brings up an interesting scenario: If the Mariners contend this season, would the team then fire Hargrove as a pre-condition to keeping Ichiro?
It could happen – and, for that matter, Ichiro could bring down GM Bill Bavasi, too.
Too many ‘ifs’ to be certain of anything this early, but don’t look for Ichiro to leave Seattle for free agency.