Suzuki can make additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses in deal with Seattle
By TIM KORTE, AP Sports Writer
December 19, 2003
SEATTLE (AP) -- Ichiro Suzuki is guaranteed $44 million in his four-year contract with the Seattle Mariners and can make an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses.
Suzuki avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to the deal Thursday, keeping the All-Star right fielder and one-time AL MVP at the top of manager Bob Melvin's lineup.
``He clearly was very happy, and he doesn't show emotion much,'' said Suzuki's agent, Tony Attanasio. ``His attitude was one of satisfaction and elation. The club clearly demonstrated to him that they do like him, they appreciate him and they really wanted to keep him around.''
Suzuki gets a $6 million signing bonus, $5 million 2004 and annual salaries of $11 million in the final three seasons, according to contract details obtained by The Associated Press.
In the first three years, he would earn bonuses of $50,000 for 400 plate appearances, and $100,000 each for 500 and 600 plate appearances. In 2007, he would get $100,000 for 400 plate appearances and $200,000 each for 500 and 600 plate appearances.
His contract also calls for housing allowances of $28,000 in 2004, $29,000 in 2005, $30,000 in 2006 and $31,000 in 2007. Suzuki also gets an interpreter, personal trainer, ground transportation during spring training and the regular season, and four round-trip first-class plane tickets from Japan to Seattle twice every year.
General manager Bill Bavasi said the difficulty in crafting a contract was finding a way to measure the 30-year-old Suzuki against other players because he does so many things differently -- and much better, in many cases -- than his peers.
Suzuki was the AL's MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001. He has won Gold Gloves in each of his three major league seasons.
``He misses nothing,'' Melvin said. ``He's constantly working to make himself a better player. He does everything very, very well.''
The Mariners avoided Saturday night's deadline to formally offer a 2004 contract to Suzuki, which would have made him eligible for salary arbitration. To do otherwise would have appeared unfavorable in Japanese culture, sending a message that club officials were unable to determine his value.
``In the culture of Ichiro and others like him, it's something disconcerting for someone other than the club to determine his worth,'' Attanasio said.
Bavasi was vacationing in New Orleans after the winter meetings but returned for what Attanasio said was a ``make-or-break day'' in negotiations. The agent characterized it that way because Suzuki plans to return to Japan this weekend.
``He's really happy going back to Japan and only having one press conference to answer that question'' about his contract status, Attanasio said.
By any measure, Suzuki is an extraordinary player. He's got outstanding speed on the bases. He carefully selects pitches and slaps infield hits. He brings a powerful arm and Gold Glove defense to right field.
Suzuki is coming off a .312 season, his lowest batting average in his three years. He hit .321 in 2002 and .350 in his MVP season.
His most visible weakness is his late-season hitting over the past two seasons. He hit .273 in September this fall and .248 in 2002.
``It's a long season and you're battling at the end,'' Melvin said. ``Last year was a lot like the year before, but this guy's given everything he's got every day. We all, as a group, tried to swing the bats a little more.''
Updated on Friday, Dec 19, 2003 2:41 pm EST
A housing bonus? Doesn't he own at least 1 house by now?