The end of a brief era in Miami is over. On Friday afternoon, the Marlins announced that they were declining a $2 million club option for the 2018 season on Ichiro Suzuki, making the 44-year-old outfielder a free agent. But will this spell the end of the future Hall of Famer's career?
The decision to let Ichiro walk ends his three-year stint in Miami as a backup outfielder—one in which he sandwiched a surprisingly productive 2016 season with two years of middling stats. Overall, Ichiro finished his Marlins tenure with a .256/.315/.325 line in 1,018 plate appearances, though he did hit .291/.354/.376 as a reserve two years ago. Better than that would have been hard to expect from a player past 40 and whose last All-Star season came seven years ago, but Ichiro did have his moments in south Florida—none more notable than his 3,000th career hit in MLB, which came on Aug. 7, 2016.
While a member of the Marlins, Ichiro also broke Pete Rose's record for the most total hits in a professional baseball career in June 2016, notching his 4,257th hit between Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (where he began his career in 1992) and MLB.
But Ichiro's final season with the Marlins was a drag, as the second-oldest player in baseball (behind only Bartolo Colon) hit just .255/.318/.322, started only 22 games (although he played in 136) and finished in the negative in Wins Above Replacement for the second time in three years. And with new owner Derek Jeter looking to cut costs wherever possible, letting Ichiro go was an expected move.
That said, whether Ichiro's career is done is an open question. Back in March, the former MVP told the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer that he wants to play until he's 50, and earlier this month, Spencer noted that Ichiro was still showing up to Marlins Park three weeks after the end of the season—the only Miami player to do so—to work out, hit in the cages and throw on the field six days a week. Given that, it's clear that he's not exactly preparing himself for retirement, though whether or not any team wants to give him a shot next season remains to be seen (and feels pretty unlikely).
Regardless of how it ends, if this is the last we see of Ichiro, then we've been truly blessed to watch one of the game's greatest pure hitters do his thing for nearly two decades. Hopefully, though, he doesn't follow his own prediction as to what will happen on the day when he does hang up his spikes. As he told Spencer back in March: "I think I’ll just die."