The Mariners announced on Thursday that they’ve declined their club options over right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma ($10MM) and Yovani Gallardo ($13MM). Their 40-man spots have gone to right-hander David Phelps and left-hander Drew Smyly, who have been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.
Iwakuma, 37 in April, has spent his entire six-year MLB career with the Mariners. Two years ago, he was on the verge of a free agent contract with the Dodgers before they backed out, resulting in Iwakuma returning to Seattle on a one-year deal with a vesting option. The option for 2017 did vest, but the righty made only six starts this year before succumbing to a shoulder injury. While the injury was not initially thought to be a season-ender, Iwakuma never made it back to a big league mound and wound up having arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September. The procedure has at least a five-month recovery time and it appears he does plan to continue pitching.
Gallardo, a longtime Brewer, was traded by the Orioles to the Mariners in January for Seth Smith. Gallardo failed to rebound from his ugly 2016 season, posting even worse numbers this year and earning a temporary bullpen banishment in June. The 31-year-old righty managed only five quality starts in 22 tries. Both Iwakuma and Gallardo may be relegated to minor league deals this winter.
According to Bob Dutton of The News Tribune in an October article, “The Mariners’ rotation next year, at this point, projects as James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and two from a collection that includes Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore.” Dutton noted that the Mariners will be one of the many teams pursuing Shohei Otani, should he come over, but otherwise the team may not necessarily pursue a rotation upgrade.