The consternation that existed 24 hours ago over the lack of depth in the Seattle Mariners' rotation as the team heads into 2016 evaporated last night when a rumor quickly turned into a signing. Following a report from Japanese outlet Jiji Press (as brought to the attention of many on Twitter thanks to Kazuto Yamazaki), it became clear that the Dodgers' reported 3-year/$45m deal with Hisashi Iwakuma hit a snag following his physical. The Twitter experts immediately started pointing out that the right-hander would still be a good fit in Seattle, and rumors popped out in the evening that the M's and Iwakuma were talking. Less than a half an hour later, Seattle announced that they had reached agreement on a contract with the 34 year old right-hander.
The complete terms of the deal haven't been completely disclosed by anyone, but the club's official announcement said that it is a one-year deal with vesting options for both 2017 and 2018. Those are most likely tied to starts or innings, meaning that the club has protection if any of the issues from that failed physical cause Iwakuma to miss significant time, but also that Iwakuma -- if he stays healthy -- can still get himself what is, in essence, a three year guarantee.
It is assumed that Seattle also ran Iwakuma through some sort of physical prior to offering him a Qualifying Offer of $15.8m before free agency started, so the fact that they were able to get him back for what is basically only a one-year risk now should be seen as a huge victory for the front office. It sounds as if General Manager Jerry Dipoto consummated this deal during the team's Christmas Party last night, and the club released this great video of Jerry making the announcement (and asking for social media discipline) during the party.
In his four seasons since signing with the Mariners, Iwakuma has posted a 3.17 ERA (3.62 FIP) and 1.08 WHIP with a record of 47 wins and 25 losses in 111 games (97 starts) covering 653 2/3 innings for Seattle. He threw a no-hitter for the M's against the Orioles this past August and allowed three earned runs or less in 14 of his final 16 starts of the season after a slow start. While he has always been a bit prone to the long ball, he also has carried a ground ball rate of 50.1% for his MLB career.
In bringing back Iwakuma, the Mariners now find themselves with six proven MLB starters to fill their rotation: Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Wade Miley, Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns and James Paxton. Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno are also currently on the roster, but Montgomery is out of options and isn't guaranteed a roster spot while Nuno is probably a better fit in the bullpen. However things shake out, it is without question that Iwakuma strengthens the club's starting pitching depth.
The Mariners have yet to announce the corresponding 40-man roster move which will be required to get him officially added to the club, but that announcement figures to come down soon.
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