Sports : Tuesday, October 31, 2000
Expect Mariners to bid for Japanese outfielder Suzuki
By Bob Finnigan
Seattle Times staff reporter
When Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is made available to
major-league teams, which is anticipated as soon as this week, look for
the Mariners to be very interested.
In fact, there is reason to believe they may be the most interested
of several teams that will bid for Suzuki to the highest level of the
Some observers believe Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Mariners' reclusive
owner from Kyoto, Japan, may be at least as involved with the idea of
obtaining Suzuki, one of Japan's most renowned position players, as he
was last winter with the signing of Kazu Sasaki, Japan's premier closer.
Mariner officials cannot comment on the matter. Through Tim Hevly,
the Seattle team's director of public relations, CEO Howard Lincoln
said, "We cannot talk about Ichiro Suzuki until he is
Yamauchi, who prefers to remain in the background, was so pleased
with the Sasaki signing that he attended the Kyoto news conference when
the Mariners announced the acquisition of Japan's record-setting closer.
At one point, he told the pitcher he needed to lose weight.
Seattle's senior baseball officials also are thought to have studied
the posting situation as minutely as possible, including how much they
will have to bid to win the right to negotiate a contract with Suzuki,
then how much they would have to pay to sign him, in the two-part
After seeing his stance and swing during their 1999 training camp,
Seattle scouts estimated Suzuki, an outstanding defensive player, could
bat between .270 and .280 in his first season, and with his on-base
percentage and speed, might make a leadoff hitter.
Seattle is in the market this offseason for everything that Suzuki
has to offer, especially a left-handed hitter.
The ties between Suzuki and Sasaki reportedly also might be
significant to the Mariners, since the two are said to be close friends.
One acquaintance said the two have spoken about playing together in
Seattle and recalled, "When they spoke, Sasaki told Ichiro,
`I will lead the way, and you follow when you can.' "
The New York Yankees, Los Angeles, Detroit, New York Mets, Boston and
Anaheim - teams familiar with Japanese players - also are expected to
seek the services of Suzuki, who hit .387 for the Orix Blue Wave this
year to win his eighth batting title in nine years.
The hook is that interest must be expressed in the form of a sealed
financial bid to the Orix club during a "posting period."
According to Jim Colborn, Seattle's scout for the Pacific Rim,
"the posting period is for four days and starts when the Orix club
notifies the Japanese commissioner's office that they are posting Suzuki
for sale to a U.S. club. . . . Expect the posting period some time in
With the bidding process, the ties between Sasaki and Suzuki
seemingly will do the Mariners no more good than their formal working
relationship with the Orix club, through which Suzuki and two pitchers
attended the M's 1999 spring-training camp for several weeks.
Oly one minor Japanese player is thought to be have been sent to this
country by means of the rules that were set up as a result of the Hideki
"Irabu was not posted," Colborn said. "He was traded
to San Diego by the Chiba team, which had a working relationship with
the Padres. Of course, he didn't want to sign with them. He only wanted
to play for the Yankees." New York traded two players and $3
million for Irabu.
Despite the upcoming posting process, there is no guarantee Suzuki
will play in this country next season. If he doesn't like the team that
wins the bidding or if he doesn't like the deal he is offered, he can
stay with Orix and play one more year, then head to the U.S. as a
10-year free agent.