Ichiro may just have more than a year left in him

Ichiro Suzuki’s one-year, $2 million contract with the Miami Marlins is official, and some baseball observers predict Ichiro — at age 41 — is beginning the final season of his Hall of Fame career.

I disagree.

In fact, I won’t be surprised if Ichiro is still in the major leagues at age 43, 44, or even 45. It could take two or three more seasons for him to achieve two major milestones: the additional 156 hits necessary to reach 3,000 in the North American major leagues, and the first World Series appearance of his historic career.

There’s recent precedent for such longevity: Omar Vizquel, like Ichiro, is an international baseball icon who was comfortable transitioning into a part-time role in his 40s. And Vizquel, like Ichiro, possesses the seemingly ageless physique that made possible his extended denouement.

Vizquel played his final game at 45 years and 162 days old, according to Baseball-Reference.com. That’s four years older than Ichiro is today.

And if Ichiro is really serious about staying in uniform as long as possible, he can look to another player who starred in Japan’s top league: Julio Franco’s fascinating and peripatetic career included 55 games with the Mets and Braves during the 2007 season — the year he turned 49.