Trading Iwakuma could bolster Mariners’ offense

May 19, 2013, 4:02 PM | Updated: May 20, 2013, 9:47 am

By Brent Stecker

Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma has been one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2013, a surprise considering the Japanese export was relegated to the bullpen for the start of his MLB career in 2012. He’s been so surprising heading into Monday’s start against Cleveland that the right-hander not only ranks in the top three in the American League in ERA (1.62), WHIP (0.78) and batting average-against (.183), but he ranks ahead of Mariners ace and former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez in each category.

Hisashi Iwakuma ranks in the top three in the A.L. in ERA and WHIP, and could be a valuable trade piece this summer. (AP)

While Iwakuma’s been blowing away hitters, the Mariners’ offense is clearly in need of more run producers – something that could be acquired by trading away Iwakuma.

Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner told “Brock and Danny” last week that the Mariners will have to at least explore the option of trading the 32-year-old “Kuma” this season to bolster their offense for the future.

“If the Mariners decide that they are not ready to … take over Texas and make a playoff run, I think there is an argument that can be made that in two months Iwakuma might be one of the most valuable trade chips you can possibly have on the market because no one is selling pitching this year,” Cameron said. “In a couple of months, it is going to be an interesting decision whether or not the Mariners keep Hisashi Iwakuma or trade him for younger players.”

ESPN baseball analyst and ex-MLB general manager Jim Bowden echoed those sentiments on “Bob and Groz.”

“Yeah, I think you have to consider (trading Iwakuma),” he said. “I wouldn’t want to. I think you’ve a got a nice two- or three-year run with him, and I’d love to see him and Felix and (prospects Taijuan) Walker and (Danny) Hultzen all in the same rotation, but I think you always have to listen.”

Should the Mariners pull the trigger on a swap involving Iwakuma, it likely won’t come until much closer to the July 31 trade deadline, when the team will have a better idea of its postseason chances.

“I think you have to see where the Mariners are at the end of July,” Bowden said. “Iwakuma’s gonna give you a better shot to win than anything you’re going to be able to get back in return, at least for the next couple of years. Keep an open mind, but I also think Iwakuma can be a very helpful part of this team making the playoffs over the next couple of years.”

Bowden is justifiably impressed with what Iwakuma has done over the last year.

“He’s a 1 starter. I watched him some last year. I’ve seen seven of the eight (starts in 2013). This guy is a 1,” Bowden said. “He pounds the zone, doesn’t miss in the middle. It’s just incredible to watch him. He’s a strikeout-per-inning kind of guy. I just love the fact that he pounds the zone, doesn’t walk anybody, he uses both sides of the plate, he changes eye level, he changes planes – He is a 1.”

If the Mariners hang on to Iwakuma through the end of his contract (he’s signed through 2014, though the team has a $7 million option for 2015), he could be in line for a free-agent deal similar to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, 38, who signed a one-year, $15 million deal after going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 2012. A contract like that, coupled with Hernandez’s seven-year, $175 million deal, and the expected arrivals of Walker, Hultzen and fellow top prospect James Paxton to the majors, could very well push the team to pursue a trade.

“I don’t know if I see the organization wanting to give Iwakuma the kind of money he is going to get in a couple of years,” Cameron said. “Are the Mariners going to want to be in a position where they are signing Iwakuma to a long-term deal with the young pitching coming?”

No starting pitcher.

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Partly Sunny
High 68° | Low 54°
No game today.

Brock and Salk podcast

Bob, Groz and Tom

Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
Brent Stecker

Heaps: Bench Chris Carson? Seahawks need him running to make playoffs

Seahawks running back Chris Carson is struggling with fumbles, and it's imperative he corrects the issue, says Jake Heaps. "If this team is going to go to the playoffs, they have to have Chris Carson running the football."
3 years ago
The Groz at T-Mobile Park...
Brent Stecker

Watch: The Groz throws out the 1st pitch before Mariners-Astros game

Dave "The Groz" Grosby was honored by the Mariners on Tuesday night by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Check out video, photos and more from his big night here.
3 years ago
Bob, Groz and Tom... Staff

Highlights from The Groz’s last show on Bob, Groz and Tom

Dave "The Groz" Grosby signed off as a full-time Seattle sports radio host Friday on Bob, Groz and Tom with visits from several notable names from his career.
3 years ago
The Groz... Staff

Watch: Members of the Seattle sports media pay tribute to The Groz

Watch a special tribute to 710 ESPN Seattle's The Groz featuring messages from members of the Seattle sports media to commemorate his 29 years as a daily host in the market.
3 years ago
The Groz...
Brent Stecker

The Groz’s final show on Bob, Groz and Tom airs Friday at noon

Dave "The Groz" Grosby will finish up his 29-year career as a daily Seattle sports radio host on Friday from noon to 3 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle's Bob, Groz and Tom.
3 years ago
Mariners OF Kyle Lewis...
Brent Stecker

What sets Mariners OF Kyle Lewis apart from other prospects?

Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis hit his fifth home run in eight games in the big leagues on Wednesday. ROOT Sports analyst Mike Blowers talked to Bob, Groz and Tom about Lewis and what makes him stand out.
3 years ago
Trading Iwakuma could bolster Mariners’ offense