The Seattle Mariners were once again traders at the 2015 trade deadline. The one person they didn’t trade who had an expiring contract? Hisashi Iwakuma. It wasn’t a lack of interest that kept Iwakuma in Seattle at the deadline as much as ownership wanted him back, I believe.
The Mariners majority owner is Nintendo, which is based out of Japan. Iwakuma is of course from Japan which makes him, you’d think, at the top of their list for off-season priorities. In his introductory press conference, new Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto mentioned Iwakuma as a guy they would like to lock up for a few more years.
Iwakuma has been the number two starter behind Felix Hernandez for the last four years. His career numbers are very good with a record of 47-25 as a starter , 3.17 ERA and 13.9 career WAR. After battling injuries for almost the entire first half of 2015, Iwakuma finished strong giving up threes runs or less in 11 of his final 12 starts including a no-hitter on August 12th against the Baltimore Orioles.
After signing with the Mariners at age 31, Iwakuma has made over $21 million but is expected to sign a contract in the 3-year, $30-$40 million range this offseason.
Currently on the roster after King Felix in the rotation is Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Roenis Elias. Paxton is coming off a finger injury and Elias took a step back in 2015. Walker has the stuff to be an ace and showed flashes of that last season. The internal options are slim for the M’s going into 2016.
Hernandez and Walker are going to be in the rotation next season but after that is a question mark. I wrote last month in my Mariners wish list article that the M’s should trade Paxton for outfield help and sign Iwakuma.
The M’s need several pieces, while working on a budget, to become an elite team. Signing Iwakuma to a club-friendly deal would start the Dipoto era off with a bang. He will turn 35 years old at the start of next season but should still have enough left in the tank to be a middle of the rotation starter.
The M’s want (and need) Iwakuma, now, lets see if he feels the same.