Colorado Rockies: Could Ichiro Suzuki fit into the 2018 plans?
By Kevin Henry
Ichiro Suzuki made history at Coors Field in 2016 by collecting his 3000th hit in his Major League Baseball career against the Colorado Rockies. Could Suzuki return to Coors Field this season wearing purple pinstripes rather than Miami Marlins gear?
When the Marlins declined Suzuki’s $2 million club option late last week, the 44-year-old outfielder became a free agent looking for a new team. He has stated that he wants to play until he is 50. While the Rockies may not need him for the next five or six seasons, perhaps he could make an impact on the team during the 2018 season as the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder.
It is expected that Colorado will have Charlie Blackmon back in center field, but after that it is a little bit of a mystery what will happen in the Rockies outfield in 2018. Carlos Gonzalez is now a free agent so the Rockies will need to find solid players in right and left field.
Ian Desmond was signed to be the team’s first baseman last offseason, but saw action in the outfield for 67 games last season as opposed to just 27 at first base. Part of that was because of the emergence of Mark Reynolds and part was that the Rockies needed Desmond in the outfield when Gerardo Parra missed time with injuries.
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Where will Desmond play in 2018? Will the Rockies go after another first baseman in free agency? Will David Dahl be able to return to Colorado after missing all of last season with a rib injury? If Desmond plays first and Dahl returns, Parra could man right and Dahl could hold down left field. Raimel Tapia is also expected to play a significant role in Colorado’s outfield next season as well.
Could Suzuki fit into Colorado’s plans? Seemingly, yes, He hit .255 last season with three homers and 20 RBI in just 196 at-bats. Most of that came in pinch-hitting roles, a similar scenario to what could happen in Denver. He could, however, serve as a capable backup when a rest day is needed.
Last year, Colorado’s pinch hitters totaled a .206 average in 228 at-bats. Other than Pat Valaika, the team often struggled to find a spark off the bench in 2017. Suzuki could potentially change that in 2018. Additionally, his $2 million salary over the last three seasons is attractive (assuming he would sign for around the same price) and would give Colorado a veteran presence in the clubhouse, always an important factor for a young team.
Next: How the Rockies can compete with the Astros and Dodgers in 2018
It may be a bit of a stretch but Suzuki coming to Colorado could certainly pay dividends for a team looking to continue its upward trajectory.