Veteran righty Hisashi Iwakuma told reporters in his native Japan that he is weighing an offer to return to the Mariners, as the Japan Times reports (h/t MLB.com’s Greg Johns). The precise nature of the team’s proposal is not known.
The 36-year-old Iwakuma says that, while there’s nothing official at the moment, he may “be able to make a positive announcement soon.” He added that he hopes to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder “in time for the start of the new season.”
The 2017 campaign was more or less a total wash for Iwakuma, who turned in six mediocre starts before his shoulder put him on the shelf. He lost nearly three miles per hour on his average fastball while recording only 16 strikeouts and surrendering seven long balls in 31 frames.
Seattle recently made the easy call to decline a $10MM club option over Iwakuma, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout. That decision wrapped up the contract — a one-year pact with consecutive vesting/club options — that brought the veteran hurler back to the M’s after a physical scuttled a deal with the Dodgers in the 2015-16 offseason.
As MLBTR’s Connor Byrne detailed in examining the Mariners’ offseason needs, the club has a variety of options on hand to fill out the staff. But while GM Jerry Dipoto has generally expressed satisfaction with the existing unit, there are plenty of questions — and opportunities — remaining in the rotation.
Taking a low-risk shot on the respected Iwakuma would certainly be one way for the team to open the door to finding some quality innings. In 2016, Iwakuma turned in 199 innings of 4.12 ERA pitching. And he was quite a bit more productive in the four seasons before that, working to a cumulative 3.17 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 through 653 2/3 frames after moving to Seattle from Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles before the 2012 campaign. Regaining anything approaching that form, though, will obviously require a full return to health.