For the first time since 2003 the Mariners will have a Japanese pitcher on the 40 man roster after agreeing to a one-year contract with Hisashi Iwakuma Thursday. After lengthy contract negotiations and a strong commitment from general manager Jack Zduriencik, Iwakuma decided Seattle was the perfect place to sign.
The 30-year-old right-hander is the latest pitcher to come stateside following Yu Darvish and Tsuyoshi Wada. Having been his second attempt at signing with a Major League Baseball team Iwakuma wanted to make sure the team he signed with was committed to him.
In 2010 the Oakland A’s one his negotiating rights with a $19.1 million dollar bid but couldn’t come to terms on a contract. Now, in 2012, after seeing the city of Seattle and having the assurance from the organization that he was truly wanted Iwakuma made his decision.
The financial aspect wasn’t a factor in his decision with the contract almost entirely incentive based. Iwakuma will receive $1.5 million in base salary with $3.4 million in reachable incentives. For the Mariners this move is a win-win without any long-term or major financial risk.
Iwakuma had a shoulder injury in 2011 that caused his velocity to drop down from 95 mph to the low 90’s. Even with a low 90’s fastball Iwakuma will provide veteran experience, and fit in likely as a No.3 starter behind Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda.
The incentives are broken down into innings pitched and starts that don’t kick in until 100 and 20 respectively. He will make $200,000 for 20 starts, $250,000 for 22 starts, $300,000 for 25 starts and $400,000 for 30 starts. His innings bonuses work exactly the same way starting at 140 innings around $150,000 and maxing out at $400,000 for 200 innings.
Some smaller, less likely incentives were thrown in as well to include World Series MVP, Cy Young award and All-Star appearance.
With an unorthodox, but common delivery, coming over from Japan it wasn’t his velocity or strikeouts that caught the eye of Zdurencik. “His fastball recently topped out at 93, but he has very good control and a low walk rate that we hope can translate over here.”
Even with the addition of Iwakuma, general manager Jack Zduriencik stated the team is still looking to sign another veteran arm. Left-handers Jamie Moyer and Jeff Francis, and right-hander Kevin Millwood have been the names notably linked with Seattle.
Iwakuma posted a 107-69 record over 11 years in Japan. He joins Shigetoshi Hasegawa (2002-2005), Masao Kida (2004-2005) and Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000-2003) as the fourth Japanese pitcher in Mariners history.
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