Mariners bring back Hisashi Iwakuma on minor league contract
As anticipated, the Mariners have announced they have signed Hisashi Iwakuma to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
A shoulder injury sidelined Iwakuma for the majority of the 2017 season, and as a result his option for 2018 did not vest and he became a free agent. Iwakuma made numerous attempts to get back on the field last year, throwing bullpens, sim games and making two rehab starts, but he was unable to get to the point where he could throw pain-free on a consistent basis. On Sept. 27 he underwent arthroscopic right shoulder debridement surgery.
Kuma told reporters in Japan last week he was targeting being ready for the 2018 regular season.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back but my hope is that it will be in time for the start of the new season,” he said.
With one of the worst pitching markets we have seen in some time – just wait until you see the battles for Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn – this is a why-the-heck-not move for the Mariners as it is for low dollars and will not require a roster spot. It probably won’t hurt in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes either to grant Kuma his wish of an opportunity to continue pitching. With what he has done in his six-year history with the team and the effort he put in to try and get back on the field last year, it would seem he has earned that opportunity.
On a minor league deal, the Mariners will not be counting on Iwakuma to fill a rotation spot at the onset of the upcoming season. They should be curious to see what he is once fully recovered however. If surgery can help restore any of Iwakuma’s lost velocity, he’s got a chance to survive on the mound or better. But that is a big ‘if.’
The upside would be Iwakuma serving as a back-of-the-rotation starter at some point of the season. The downside? Well, at least they tried.
It is very tough to put any kind of expectation on a pitcher entering his age-37 season coming off shoulder surgery. The beauty of this is, the Mariners don’t have to. Kuma is willing to give this a shot. It is good to see the Mariners are too.