SEATTLE MARINERS

Mariners sign Japanese LHP Yusei Kikuchi to 4-year deal

Jan 2, 2018, 2:06 PM | Updated: Jan 2, 2019, 9:51 pm

The Mariners made a play for the headlining Japanese pitcher on the market last year and lost out. They had much better luck this time around.

Drayer: Mariners get Yusei Kikuchi, so how does he fit?

A year after Shohei Ohtani spurned Seattle and signed with the Los Angeles Angels, the Mariners signed 27-year-old left-hander Yusei Kikuchi in a deal made official Wednesday.

“Yusei’s combination of character, talent, experience and relative age made him a primary target in our roster building plans,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a press release. “He is an exciting young pitcher with the ability to impact the Mariners, both in the present and future.”

An eight-year NPB veteran with the Saitama Seibu Lions, Kikuchi a 2.81 career ERA. His best season was in 2017, going 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 4.43 strikeouts to walk ration over a career-high 26 starts and 187 2/3 innings. In 2018, he finished 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA over 23 starts (162 2/3 innings). His fastball is said to sit between 92 and 94 mph, and he also features a curveball, slider and splitter that all rate average or better.

A three-time NPB All-Star, the 6-foot, 194-pound Kikuchi registered 879 strikeouts to just 363 walks over his career with the Lions.

Due to posting rules regarding players seeking to move from Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball to the MLB, Kikuchi had a deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday to sign with a major league team. His contract with Seattle, which was reported to be in agreement on Monday night, was announced about 15 minutes before the deadline.

The contract as reported is pretty rare. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Kikuchi has three years guaranteed totaling $43 million plus a player option for a fourth year at $13 million. But the Mariners also have an option that would replace Kikuchi’s fourth-year option with an additional four-year, $66 million extension.

Dipoto was open at the winter meetings in Las Vegas about his interest in Kikuchi and about how a deal structured in the right way could still fit in the Mariners’ rebuilding plans. Seattle is undergoing an extensive makeover this offseason in the hopes of acquiring prospects now with an ultimate goal of being able to contend in a couple of years.

Kikuchi will turn 28 during the 2019 season. With the trade of James Paxton this offseason, Kikuchi will slot high in Seattle’s rotation alongside Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Wade LeBlanc, Felix Hernandez and likely a couple of young prospects.

Kikuchi is the latest in a line of Japanese players to call Seattle home, a list that started with Ichiro Suzuki and also includes Kazuhiro Sasaki, Kenji Johjima, Nori Aoki and Hisashi Iwakuma.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Listen: Supercut of Nelson Cruz’s 163 HRs with Mariners

Date Starting Pitcher
Wednesday, June 29 @ 1:10 pm Mariners' Chris Flexen vs. Orioles' Austin Voth

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Sunny
High 72° | Low 54°
Roof is open
Athletics at Mariners today at 7:10pm

Bump & Stacy Show

Seattle Mariners

Mariners Julio Rodriguez...
The Associated Press

Julio Rodríguez hits 12th homer as Mariners beat Orioles 9-3, win series

Julio Rodríguez hit his 12th homer of the season as part of Seattle’s six-run fourth inning, and the Mariners beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-3.
22 hours ago
Mariners Taylor Trammell...
Brandon Gustafson

Mariners make 5 roster moves, including placing Taylor Trammell on IL

The Mariners made five roster moves on Wednesday, most notably placing OF Taylor Trammell on the injured list with a hurt hamstring.
22 hours ago
Mariners Ty France...
Brandon Gustafson

Mariners’ Ty France aims to return in next 10 days, hoping for All-Star nod

Star Mariners 1B Ty France joined Mike Salk to discuss his injury timeline and why making the All-Star Game would mean a lot to him.
22 hours ago
Mariners Cal Raleigh...
Brent Stecker

Servais: Cal Raleigh’s Mariners breakthrough not limited to his hitting

Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh is enjoying his best month at the plate in the big leagues, but Scott Servais is impressed by much more than that.
22 hours ago
Mariners Jesse Winker...
The Associated Press

Robbie Ray, Jesse Winker lead Mariners to 2-0 win over Orioles

Jesse Winker drove in two runs with a go-ahead double in the eighth, Robbie Ray allowed just one hit over seven innings and the Mariners beat the Orioles 2-0 Tuesday night.
2 days ago
Mariners Carlos Santana...
Brandon Gustafson

Mariners Notebook: Carlos Santana hitting 5th, at 1B in M’s debut

The Mariners' newest addition -- Carlos Santana -- is in the lineup on Tuesday against the Orioles hitting fifth and playing first base.
2 days ago
Mariners sign Japanese LHP Yusei Kikuchi to 4-year deal