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July 13, 2007 at 3:26 PM

Ichiro happy and (still) rich

So,scratch that off the Mariners’ to-do list for the next five years. We know who the leadoff hitter and face of the franchise is going to be after today’s five-year, $90 million contract extension between the M’s and Ichiro. The Associated Press lists the contract as a $17 million base salary for each of the five years, plus a $5 million bonus.
So, where’s the $10 million discrepancy between the reported deal and the $100 million total value cited earlier this week? Simple. Ichiro is going to have interest paid to him on the deferred money in the contract, something that not all contracts of this sort contain. For the purposes of how this deal is valued by the players’ association, the fact that Ichiro plays in a tax-free state also helped to drive the “total value” figure up.
But, if the M’s want to tell David Samson they’re only paying Ichiro $18 million per season in salary and signing bonus, hey, who are we to argue? It’s still big coin, a huge investment in the team’s future. And the M’s and Ichiro both sounded happy about it.
“Great players are flashpoints for clubs and this is a great player,” Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. “He is known everywhere. As a great player, when you’re in this city, you see how he impacts fans.
“The impact is going to be felt in the stands, but more importantly, he’s going to be flet on the field by me.”
Ichiro insisted there was no specific date in which he became sold on the idea of returning to Seattle. He dismissed suggestions that the recent departure of manager Mike Hargrove had anything to do with the deal, which he put his signature on less than two hours ago.
“The fans from opposing teams told me ‘Please come to our team’,” Ichiro said of his experience on road trips this season to cities that had expressed an interest in signing him as a free agent. “But in the end, when I came back to Seattle and the fans here asked me to stay here, that’s the moment that meant the most to me.”
Ichiro did add that is was “a possibility” the team’s winning record of late had a greater influence on his decision than other factors.
‘If you look at the potential on this team, you can understand why our record is where we’re at now.”
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, one of the two main negotiators for the M’s on this deal, said the momentum really picked up about “six or seven weeks ago” after talks had gone on regularly since January.
“In any set of negotiations, there are ebbs and flows,” he said. “And there were plenty of times when the ebbs were far out.”
But it all came together. Armstrong said he doesn’t find anything too extraordinary about the deal, already criticized by Florida Marlins president David Samson for being a threat to the future of baseball. Armstrong said the team may have to lay out a bit more money than it envisioned last year, but that the budget for 2007 and beyond will not be drastically impacted.
Other news from today. You asked me about Tomo Ohka and yes, the M’s did sign him to a Class AAA deal. I spoke to GM Bavasi a little while ago and he suggested it’s more a move to shore up pitching depth at Tacoma than anything else. The Mariners want to see what they’ve got with Ohka and how far along he’s at. Don’t look for him to be up here any time soon.
As for Keith Law, yes, I did know him when he worked in Toronto as an assistant to Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi. He knows his stuff really well, has done hands-on scouting for a major league team and is a whiz with stats. The mistakes he made in his story today are ones I’ve made in the past (calling a LHP a RHP) etc. Those are simple brain cramps we all experience on deadline. I’m not sure how he overlooked George Sherrill either. To be honest with you, a lot of people have overlooked Sherrill this year. He’s very unheralded. I’m sure Law wishes he hadn’t omitted his name from the piece.
But he does know his stuff. Was highly valued in the Toronto front office by Ricciardi in 2002 and 2003. When “Moneyball” went out of style in Toronto, as the team finished last in 2004, so too, did Law fall out of style and out of favor. But I do read him regularly for his insights.



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