Option declined by Marlins, Ichiro a free agent

Option declined by Marlins, Ichiro a free agent

MIAMI -- Ichiro Suzuki's tenure with the Marlins appears to be coming to an end.

The Marlins on Friday declined a $2 million club option on the iconic outfielder who has compiled Hall of Fame-worthy credentials in 17 big league seasons.

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Ichiro, who turned 44 on Oct. 22, spent the past three seasons with Miami as its fourth outfielder.

One of the most popular and respected players of his generation, Ichiro has publicly stated he wants to play until he is 50. Now a free agent, he will likely pursue other options.

A 10-time All-Star, there's a chance Ichiro could still return to the Marlins at a lower salary, but that would depend on other factors.

Braxton Lee is a left-handed-hitting outfielder who is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League. He is a candidate to be a fourth outfielder in 2018 -- or possibly a starter, depending on Miami's direction.

Also on Friday, the Marlins claimed catcher Chad Wallach off waivers from the Reds. Wallach is the son of Miami bench coach Tim Wallach. The Marlins' 40-man roster is now at 34.

In 2017, Ichiro's playing time was limited to mostly pinch-hitting duties. He had a career-low 196 at-bats, and he posted a slash line of .255/.318/.649 with three homers and 20 RBIs.

But as he's done throughout his remarkable career, Ichiro found a way to excel. His 27 pinch-hits set a Marlins season record, and he finished one pinch-hit shy of John Vander Wal's MLB mark of 28 set in 1995.

"It was an honor to have managed Ichi," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "One of the greatest players in the history of our game."

The highlight of Ichiro's career with Miami came on Aug. 7, 2016, when he tripled at Coors Field in Denver for his 3,000th MLB hit.

Counting 1,278 hits in seven seasons in Japan, Ichiro has 4,358 professional hits, the most of any player. But MLB doesn't recognize combined hits, so the total is not a record. Ichiro ranks 22nd on MLB's all-time hits list, with his 3,080 hits one shy of Cap Anson for 21st. When he broke in with the Mariners, Ichiro was an instant sensation. As a rookie in 2001, he batted .350 and won the American League MVP Award and the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

In 2004, Ichiro established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262, breaking George Sisler's mark of 257 that had stood since 1920.

Ichiro played with the Mariners from 2001 until he was traded to the Yankees in '12. He was with New York through '14, before signing as a free agent with the Marlins on Jan. 28, 2015. Since then, Miami had picked up a series of one-year club options for Ichiro.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.