Re-signing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will be a priority for the Mariners this offseason, new general manager Jerry Dipoto told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.
Iwakuma, a 34-year-old client of the Wasserman Media Group, has pitched exclusively for the Mariners in his big league career since coming over from Japan in 2012. After signing an initial one-year, $1.5MM contract, he inked a two-year, $14MM extension with a $7MM club option that wound up vesting but would have been an easy call for the Mariners to exercise either way.
A strained lat muscle cost Iwakuma a bit more than two months of action this season and has limited him to 122 2/3 innings. He’s performed well in that time, however, demonstrating his typical brand of pinpoint control (1.5 BB/9 rate) and a strong ground-ball rate (50.6 percent) as well as a characteristically solid 7.6 K/9 rate.
Iwakuma will turn 35 next April, complicating his free agent stock to some extent. Age and injury status notwithstanding, Iwakuma has a strong case for a multi-year deal based on his excellent track record. He’s tallied a 3.19 ERA in 646 2/3 career innings, and his career strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates are all quite similar to his aforementioned 2015 rates.
Bringing back Iwakuma would keep the Mariners’ solid 1-2 punch of Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma intact, and the Mariners will of course be hoping for better health from both Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in 2016. Lefties Vidal Nuno and Roenis Elias also figure to be in the mix. As Bowden notes, building depth is Dipoto’s modus operandi, so the team will likely be better equipped to handle any rotation injuries that do arise in 2016.
Interest in Iwakuma should be fairly widespread, however. While he doesn’t fit into the top of the marketplace alongside David Price, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke, Iwakuma’s stable performance and the fact that he can likely be had on a shorter-term deal should make him appealing to a large number of teams in addition to just Seattle.
2/28M with an option? He has to top Peavy/Hudson.
Agreed wholeheartedly that he has to top those two. I think there’s a case for three years, or at least $30MM on a two-year deal. He’s pitched exceptionally well down the stretch, which can’t hurt his cause.
I’m expecting him to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 3/39M.
Peavy/Hudson have a longer history with sustained success. Also, Iwakuma has had injury concerns consistently throughout his career. Most importantly, he wants to be in Seattle and they want him in Seattle. My guess is $18M/2 years with vesting option at $9M and $2M buyout. Making it essentially $20M/2 years or $27M/3 years
Hudson signed his 2/23 coming off a year in which surgery to repair a broken ankle held him to 131 innings. Peavy had averaged 148 innings per season over a six-year span due to injuries prior to signing his deal. Neither was necessarily a healthier option, and Iwakuma is considerably younger than Hudson was.
If the best Seattle offers is 2/18, I’d expect Iwakuma to sign elsewhere, even though he does want to remain there.
When is finger and shoulder concerns the same as an ankle for Hudson? Hudson may have missed time, but general managers have said that as long as it is nothing to do with the shoulder, elbow, or throwing arm in general, they only need to see that the pitcher clears a physical when they sign their deal. Iwakuma had huge shoulder concerns, later he had elbow concerns and has had a rocky time of it the last couple years. We would be lucky to get 85-90 starts out of Hisashi over the three years.
As for Peavy? Peavy pitched in 2012 ~ 219 IP, 2013 ~ 144.2 IP (ribs), 2014 ~ 202.2 IP, so yeah a broken rib is the only reason he had 3 straight 200 IP seasons derailed. He also was 34 in the first year of his deal instead of 35 like Iwakuma. Probably most importantly, Iwakuma missed significant time in his last season, while Peavy was over a year removed from his injuries. That’s much more important than 6 years of injury history, why not look at 9 or 12 years?
Final argument, the guy is Asian and specifically, Japanese. Japanese are very proud and loyal. Between his loyalty to the Mariners, and how Oakland handled their negotiations with him, he said in an interview that he looks forward to facing Oakland every year since they chose not to sign him. Also, he stated a desire for his family to have stability and not have to change schools and homes. So I think that taking a near $30M deal, which is an increase in value over his last deal would more than fulfill his desires.
I was surprised by the reference to “hoping for better health” from Seattle righthander Taijuan Walker, who made a near-full slate of 29 starts for the Mariners this season.
A horrendous first seven weeks of the season skewed Walker’s numbers for the year. As a point of reference, Boston lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez has posted a 3.85 ERA with 98 strikeouts and 37 walks over 121.2 innings in 21 starts since his MLB debut on May 28. Over the same period, Walker has posted a 3.62 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 17 walks over 126.2 innings in 20 starts.
For what it’s worth, Walker is eight months older than Rodriguez.
And he threw a no-hitter this season!
New Law Era
I don’t think Johnny Cueto even fits alongside those other names in the marketplace. His second half left a lot to be desired and that’s going to drag down his value significantly.
Cueto will make or break his FA $$$$ with his post season performances. If he still struggles on the big stage it will really hurt. He is wanting top dollar that will only be paid by teams who will expect to be in to playoffs in 2016. They will expect him to be able to perform well in the post season.
I think he’s a fit for the Orioles. I expect around 3/35 with a 4 th year option.