The one thing that the Seattle Mariners have not struggled with in recent years has been their starting pitching. They don’t want to lose that for 2013 and have reached an agreement on a two-year extension with right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma with an option for 2015.
Iwakuma signed with the Mariners last January with questions about the health of his shoulder. He started the season in the bullpen but made the transition to the starting rotation in July and quickly put to rest any concerns about his arm health.
On the season, Iwakuma went 9-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings pitched. Over the last three months of the season, the Japanese right-hander was even more impressive, starting 16 games, going 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA. He was better as the season progressed, going 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 43 strikeouts in his final nine starts.
The details of the contract show that Iwakuma will make $6.5 million in 2013 and 2014 with a $7 million team option in 2015. If the team doesn’t want to retain Iwakuma for 2015, they have a $1 million buyout option.
Iwakuma emerged down the stretch as a viable number three starter next season for the Mariners behind Felix Hernandez and Erasmo Ramirez. Seattle would like to lock up that top-of-the-rotation trio, and have done so with this extension.
That leaves the final two spots in the rotation left to be decided in Seattle. The M’s have an overflow of phenomenal pitching prospects in their farm system to choose from. The best among them, Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen, could make a push next spring to join the big league club and claim a spot in the back end of the rotation. The team has also shown an interest in throwing some money towards Jason Vargas this offseason to lock down another spot in their rotation.
The Mariners’ strength as a team lies in their starting pitching, and the team isn’t looking to lose that going into next year. Locking up Iwakuma keeps stability in the rotation and allows the M’s to spend some of their available cash to bring in a few bats to give Seattle a shot at competing in 2013.