Ichiro Suzuki is one of the most prolific baseball players in the history of the MLB. His career includes 10 all-star selections in the MLB and an AL MVP award in 2001. Ichiro has accomplished as much as any baseball star in the last decade. But, in addition to collecting baseball accolades, he has also collecting dollars in his bank account. Ichiro as accrued a net worth of over $180 million through big contracts and a variety of endorsements and business investments. Ichiro has come a long way since transferring from the Nippon Professional Baseball League, the highest level of professional baseball in Japan, to the MLB. It is clear that he is committed to excellence in both his baseball and business life. He has created fans all over the world with his tireless dedication to the game. It is also clear that Ichiro is going to continue being a household name for decades to come.
The first endorsement deal that Ichiro signed as a Major Leaguer was in 2001, when he entered an exclusive contract with the baseball card company Upper Deck. The deal was reported to be north of seven figures and was a great opportunity for Ichiro to expand his American fanbase. The deal entailed Ichiro providing both autographs and other baseball related memorabilia. Ichiro had been careful in deciding which deal he would sign, rejecting offers from fast food franchises and other endorsements that did not fit his image. This was a smart business play by Ichiro, who cultivated his image carefully during his initial years in the United States. As he began to start accumulating his wealth, he would continually branch out into new businesses and investments. Though, it is clear throughout his playing days in Seattle that he was not one to take on endorsement deals lightly. Signing Ichiro to a contract has always remained an elusive and difficult task.
However, due to Ichiro’s global appeal he has had the opportunity to market himself all over the world with endorsement deals that might not be available to other MLB players. In Japan, Ichiro has promoted everything from energy drinks to Starbucks gift cards. One of the reasons that some stars will market more abroad than domestically is due to image preservation. If a player is engaged in too many endorsements locally, then it can give the wrong impression. People may worry that they are not dedicated enough to the game or only in it for the money. By increasing their global marketing, players with worldwide appeal can increase the number of endorsements in other countries without hurting their image in their home country. This is a trick that famous A-list actors have been using for decades. It is clear that Ichiro has been careful to monitor his image both domestically and abroad.
Though Ichiro’s earnings do not primarily come from endorsement deals. Instead, he has made the majority of his net worth from the fat contracts that he has signed in his years as a professional baseball player in Japan and America. This includes professional contracts in his playing days with the Orix Bluewave, before coming to America. This peaked in 2007 when he signed a $90 million contract with the Mariners for 5 years. This is not to mention the additional kickbacks and bonuses that were present on the contract. With additional perks like deferred payments and 4-5% interest, the contract was in reality worth more than $100 million. Deferred payments are a benefit that can be added to a contract which allow a portion of the payments to be made at a later date. Players typically take these perks because they pay out additional interest accumulation and allow the player to keep collecting checks after their playing days are done. This particular contract extension did not start with deferred payments until January 30th following the year of Ichiro’s retirement. It is a crafty way to transition to the post-baseball life.
Despite the Mariners 2007 contract being the biggest of his career, Ichiro continued to accumulate smaller contracts during his playing days. He signed with the Yankees in 2012 for approximately $6 million a season. Though it was a far cry from his nearly $18 million yearly salary in his prime, it still helped to build his net worth. Not much more could be expected of a player who had just turned 39. As well, deferred payments were not the only benefit that these monster contracts came with. Ichiro’s initial deal with the Mariners included a signing bonus of $5 million, moving allowance of $10,000, total housing allowance of $78,000, a car, personal trainer, and interpreter. It is not hard to see why Ichiro was so content to stay in the Major Leagues year after year. All of these perks would be difficult to turn down.
Overall, Ichiro has proven that not only one type of player or hitter can find success in professional baseball. It just takes determination, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence of your craft. It seems that it was never about the money for Ichiro, that just came as a side benefit of being excellent at what he did. From his days playing youth baseball in Japan to the biggest baseball stage in the world, it seems that there is nothing that Ichiro can’t accomplish. Even though Ichiro officially retired in 2019, his mark will be left on the game forever. Though Ichiro is never one to stay in one place for too long, so a return to the baseball field in one form or another is probable. There have already been hints that he is interested in management. One thing is clear, Ichiro’s presence in baseball is not going away anytime soon.
Written by Allen Lee
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