The Miami Marlins made their first official roster decision for 2018 on Friday, declining Ichiro Suzuki's $2 million team option.
Ichiro, 44, is a free agent after three seasons in Miami and 17 in the majors.
In saying so long to Ichiro, the Marlins pass on retaining a future Hall of Famer highly regarded throughout baseball for his work ethic and meticulous routine.
Last season, Ichiro got off to a slow start but picked up his production in the second half. He finished with a .255 average, .318 OBP and .332 slugging percentage. Those numbers were .299/.384/.379 after the All-Star break.
All of that came as Ichiro -- who with 3,080 career hits ranks 22nd on the all-time list -- adjusted to a true reserve role for an entire season for the first time in his quarter-century of playing professional baseball. With a healthy and highly productive starting trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, Ichiro was limited to 23 starts in the outfield.
That helped Ichiro become baseball's most prolific pinch-hitter. He set major league records with 109 pinch-hit plate appearances and 100 pinch-hit at-bats. His 27 pinch-hits were one shy of the single-season record.
Had the Marlins picked up his option, Ichiro could have been in line for more playing time, particularly if the Marlins move one or more of the starting outfielders this offseason.
Manager Don Mattingly said in late September that he could see Ichiro in a backup-plus type of role, playing a few times per week.
"He could definitely play more than he's played this year, for sure," Mattingly said. "I use him in all three spots. You trust him in center field, you trust him anywhere you put him on the field.
"He's an amazing guy. (Ichiro wouldn't) play six, seven days a week, but for him to play three days a week I think is something that's conceivable."
Ichiro has spoken on multiple occasions about how he has no intention of retiring any time soon, saying as recently as the final week of the season that he wants to play until he's "at least 50."
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