Sun, Dec 21, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Ichiro Suzuki safe in Mariners' port

AP , SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Ichiro Suzuki is guaranteed US$44 million in his four-year contract with the Seattle Mariners and can make an additional US$1.25 million in performance bonuses.

Suzuki avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to the deal Thursday, keeping the All-Star right fielder and American League 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 US$6 million signing bonus, US$5 million in 2004 and annual salaries of US$11 million in the final three seasons, according to contract details obtained by AP.

In the first three years, he would earn bonuses of US$50,000 for 400 plate appearances, and US$100,000 each for 500 and 600 plate appearances. In 2007, he would get US$100,000 for 400 plate appearances and US$200,000 each for 500 and 600 plate appearances. His contract also calls for housing allowances of US$28,000 in 2004, US$29,000 in 2005, US$30,000 in 2006 and US$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.

"He's really happy going back to Japan and only having one press conference to answer that question."

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