In a stunning turn of events, the Mariners have a late addition to their starting rotation. Just over 12 hours after news came from Japan that Hisashi Iwakuma had failed his physical with the Dodgers, the Mariners announced they have re-signed him to a one-year contract with vesting options for 2017 and 2018.
“We said from the start that Kuma was a priority for us,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said in the team’s press release. “Obviously, the developments from the last few days allowed us to get back in the game. It’s a credit to our ownership; to Howard Lincoln, to Kevin Mather, to our entire ownership group that we were able to get aggressive and find a way to bring Kuma back to the Mariners. We’re all thrilled. This is a big move for us. We feel like this really puts a finishing touch on what we think has been a very productive off-season.”
To make room for Iwakuma on the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated outfielder Dan Robertson for assignment. Seattle claimed Robertson, 30, off waives from the Angels on Nov. 6.
The Mariners had reportedly made a two-year offer to Iwakuma that was topped by the Dodgers, who came in with a three-year, $45 million offer that he agreed to Dec. 6. Questions about why that deal had yet to be finalized started to arise in the last 24 hours, and news that Iwakuma failed his physical came via the Jiji-Press out of Japan Thursday morning. There were reports throughout the day that the Dodgers were trying to rework the deal, but the Mariners in the end got the job done.
From the day he took over as the Mariners’ general manager, Jerry Dipoto insisted that re-signing Iwakuma was the team’s priority. He was willing to wait to see how Iwakuma’s market would develop and said on “The Hot Stove” show last Friday that the Mariners did not engage with other free-agent starters while “they were working through it with Kuma.”
The day after it appeared the Mariners had lost Iwakuma to the Dodgers, however, they made a trade with the Boston Red Sox for Wade Miley. While he might not have the stuff Iwakuma has, Miley can give the team needed innings. Now Dipoto has both.
If the season were to start today, the Mariners would be looking at a rotation headed by Felix Hernandez and followed by Iwakuma, Miley, Taijuan Walker and either Nate Karns or James Paxton. The signing creates much needed starter depth with one of Karns or Paxton most likely ticketed for Tacoma.
Dipoto credits Mariners ownership for allowing the move that most likely puts him well over budget. While the dollars are yet to be known, the Mariners are once again getting Iwakuma on at the very least team-friendly terms. With the vesting options, they are protected if Iwakuma runs into injury problems. If he doesn’t, they get another year of him.
Iwakuma made 20 starts in 2015, missing over two months with a lat strain. He made three starts before the injury, going 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA. After a rocky first start back from the disabled list, he went 9-4 in 16 games – including a no-hitter – with a 2.82 ERA the remainder of the season.
We will talk more about this deal with both Iwakuma and Dipoto on Friday.