The Mariners have traded their iconic right fielder to the New York Yankees – a move he requested – for two minor-league prospects and cash considerations. The Mariners announced the trade Monday afternoon and held a press conference minutes later.
"When I think about taking off the Mariners uniform I was overcome with sadness," Ichiro said through a translator while sitting at a podium next to Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong.
The trade came hours before the Yankees and Mariners opened a three-game series at Safeco Field. Ichiro is hitting eighth and playing right field for the Yankees. They ultimately plan to play Ichiro in left field.
"We're very excited to have him and we think he brings a speed element," manager Joe Girardi said during the press conference. "This is a big day for us."
The same can be said for the Mariners, who are saying goodbye to one of the most prolific players in their history.
Ichiro, 38, leaves the Mariners as the franchise's career leader in hits, runs scored, triples and at-bats. He is a 10-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and a two-time American League batting champ. Ichiro's 10 consecutive seasons with 200 hits or more is an MLB record, as is his 262 hits in 2004. He was the American League MVP in 2001, his first season with the Mariners after nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Japan's Pacific League.
"On behalf of our ownership group and everyone in the Seattle Mariners organization, I thank Ichiro for the great career he's had here in Seattle," Lincoln said in the team's press release.
Ichiro has been in a steep decline the last two seasons, hitting nearly 60 points below his career average. He was moved out of the leadoff spot for the first time in his career earlier this season.
In the release, Lincoln writes that Ichiro's agent approached the team several weeks ago seeking a trade.
"Ichiro knows that the club is building for the future, and he felt that what was best for the team was to be traded to another club and give our younger players an opportunity to develop," Lincoln said. "Ichiro will be missed. He owns a long list of Major League Baseball and Mariners club records, has earned many prestigious awards, and in my opinion, he will someday be a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I know that I speak for all of Ichiro's fans, both here in the Pacific Northwest, around this country and also throughout Japan, in wishing him and his wife Yumiko the very best as he continues his baseball career with the Yankees."
In return, the Mariners receive 25-year-old right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Both will report to Triple-A Tacoma.
According to Jack Curry of YES Network, who was the first to report the story, the Yankees will pay "slightly more than $2 million" of Ichiro's salary for the rest of this season. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that total is $2.5 million. Ichiro is making $18 million this season, which is the final year of his five-year, $90 million deal.