Ichiro given 90 million reasons to stay in Seattle
SEATTLE – Great week to be Ichiro Suzuki.
The Seattle leadoff man signed a $90 million, five-year contract extension Friday, three days after he was the unanimous MVP of the All-Star game.
The deal ensures Seattle, enjoying its best season in four years, will not lose its franchise cornerstone to free agency this fall. Instead, the Mariners will keep the seven-time All-Star and perennial Gold Glove outfielder under contract until age 39.
When asked whose counsel he valued most during contract negotiations that began in January, he said, “Ikky, my dog.”
“He said, ‘Ruff, ruff, ruff,’ ” a smiling Ichiro said through an interpreter. “That means, ‘Stay, stay, stay.’ ”
Seattle won the bidding to sign him to come, come, come out of Japan before 2001. Then the Mariners signed him to an extension in 2004 that is paying him $11 million this season.
“Now, I have the opportunity to be on one team for a long time. And I am grateful for that,” Ichiro said at a press conference announcing the richest contract in Mariners history.
“I’m going to do my best to play 10 more years here.”
Ichiro, the first player in major league history with 200 hits in each of his first six seasons, led the majors with 128 hits going into Friday night’s game against Detroit. He was batting .355 with five home runs and 39 RBIs, and had stolen 23 bases.
“We’re signing here a Hall of Fame-type player,” general manager Bill Bavasi said.
As Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said, “He is our icon.”
The contract contains a $5 million signing bonus and base salaries of $17 million for each season from 2008-2012, with part of the money deferred. Because of the deferred money, the average annual value is discounted to about $16.5 million.
Ichiro’s agent, Tony Attanasio, refused to specify how much cash is deferred, but said it is a multimillion dollar chunk with interest of at least 2 percent. He said that the $126 million, seven-year extension signed by Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells in December was a prime consideration in negotiating Ichiro’s deal.
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