The Mariners made the surprising announcement Monday that they had traded Ichiro to the visiting Yankees for right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Cash considerations are also included in the trade, although specifics were not released.
Ichiro immediately suited up for the Yankees, batting eighth and playing right field against his former mates at Safeco Field. When he took the field for batting practice, Mariners fans gave the local favorite a loud and extended ovation.
Ichiro has been the face of the Mariners for his 12 years with the team. He has been to 10 All-Star Games and is the franchise leader in hits, runs scored, triples and at-bats. He won both the American League Most Valuable Player Award and Rookie of the Year Award in 2001.
"I would like to express my gratitude to the fans. Thank you for the last 11 1/2 years," said a stoic Ichiro -- through interpreter Ken Barron -- visibly fighting back tears. "Starting in 2001, whether the team played well or bad, whether I played good or bad, I am overcome with emotion when I think about my times and feelings when that time was spent together with the fans.
"During all those times, the fans were a big foundation for me. When I think about this long period, it is hard for me to concisely express my feelings. When I think about the last 11 1/2 years, about the time and feelings of the last 11 1/2 years, and when I imagine taking off a Mariner uniform, I was overcome with sadness. It has made this a very difficult decision to make."
Entering Monday, Ichiro has a .322 lifetime batting average and has compiled 2,533 hits in his career. He holds a number of records, including the most hits in a single season with 262 in 2004. Ichiro collected over 200 hits a record 10 times in a row, and also has stolen 438 bases in his career.
The past couple seasons, the 38-year-old has seen a decline in his numbers and was hitting a career-low .261 entering Monday. Ichiro said he reflected over the All-Star break and felt that being a veteran, it would be best for both sides if he wasn't on a young team moving forward. He approached the Mariners and asked if they would consider trading him.
Pitchers acquired by Mariners
- D.J. Mitchell, RHP: Prior to 2012, he'd done nothing but win as a starter, but he's struggled in Triple-A this year. Not very big, he has a limited ceiling as a No. 4 or 5 starter, with a fastball, slider and changeup. He throws a good curve, too, but his size and overall average stuff have some thinking his long-term future is in the bullpen.
- Danny Farquhar, RHP: This is Farquhar's fourth organization this year. The A's grabbed him off of waivers from the Blue Jays in June. The Yankees did the same from the A's at the end of that month. He uses different arm angles out of the bullpen, with a fastball, slider and curve. He's effective against right-handed hitters and struggles with command at times.
- -- Jonathan Mayo
"When I spent time during the All-Star break to think, I realized that this team has many players in their early 20s, and I began to think I should not be on this team next year," Ichiro said. "When I thought about the future of the team, I also started to feel a desire to be in an atmosphere that I could have a different kind of stimulation than I have now. If that were the case, it would be the best decision for both parties involved that I leave the team as soon as possible, and I have made that decision."
President Chuck Armstrong said he discussed a potential trade with fellow team presidents and let general manager Jack Zduriencik deal with other general managers about the specific personnel who would be involved in the trade.
"Once he came to us and talked about how he saw the future unfolding and where we were and what he wanted to do and the remainder of his career, we tried to accommodate his request," Armstrong said. "I only talked to the teams he asked me to talk with."
Armstrong said the Mariners had approached Ichiro multiple times with an offer to extend his expiring contract, as early as this past offseason and all the way into May, but Ichiro continually expressed his desire to wait until the season was done to talk about his future with the organization.
Mitchell and Farquhar will both report to Triple-A Tacoma. Mitchell replaces Ichiro on the Mariners' 40-man roster, which remains full.
Mitchell, 25, has spent most of the season with Triple-A Scranton. He is 6-4 with a 5.04 ERA in 15 games this season at Scranton. He also made four appearances in the Majors this season, posting a 3.86 ERA.
Farquhar is also 25 years old. He has spent the 2012 season in the Minor League systems of three clubs, the Blue Jays, A's and Yankees. He has combined to go 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA and five saves in 32 games.
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.