mariners

Seattle Mariners extend Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners start offseason off right

The Seattle Mariners announced late Friday night that they have extended starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma on a two-year deal worth at least $14 million.

It’s being reported that he’ll get $6.5 million in both 2013 and 2014, with a $1 million buyout attached to a $7 million option for 2015.

2012 was Iwakuma’s first year in the Major League’s, after signing over from Japan on a one-year $1.5 million deal last offseason.

The right-hander proved highly valuable last season, pitching 14 games of relief as well as starting 16 games. It was exactly the kind of flexible arm Seattle needed.

Hisashi Iwakuma

Hisashi Iwakuma returns to the Mariners for at least another two years.

As a reliever, Iwakuma pitched 30.1 innings with a 4.75 ERA and 1.418 WHIP. He finished six games for the M’s, while collecting two saves.

The 31-year old was much more valuable as a starter. In 16 starts he went 8-4, posting a 2.65 ERA, 2.79 K/BB and 1.232 WHIP in 95 innings.

Iwakuma’s biggest issue as a starter was that of many Japanese imports: innings. He averaged less than five innings per start, and only pitched more than six innings on five occasions—which were all games that he won.

The extension of Iwakuma shows Seattle’s dedication to not just youth, but stabilization.

The 2012 Mariners swapped through seven different starters. The hardest thing for manager Eric Wedge seemed to be finding a 4-5 duo he trusted. But once Iwakuma entered the rotation, his consistency kept him in.

Now they can enter 2012 with at least three returning starters at the top of that rotation—Felix Hernandez, Jason Varagas and now Hisashi Iwakuma. With any luck, Iwakuma can get his innings above the 180 mark, making the top of the rotation pretty solid.

All-in-all, I like this move. It gives the M’s someone to slot into the 3/4 spot in the rotation. He’s young enough that they don’t have to be worried about injuries, but old enough that he brings a veteran presence to the mound.

For those of you worried about the future, don’t forget his 2015 option. If all three of Seattle’s prospective aces make it up in the next two years, they can buy out Iwakuma and open a slot in the rotation.

It’s not a huge move, but a good start to building towards 2013.

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