Iwakuma - One and Done, 1


Q.  What do you crunch from a Bedard contract, with no team option?

A.  That Iwakuma wants to come to the States, have a big year, and then get PAYBACK.  Against the A's, against his agent, against Rakuten, and yes, against the Seattle Mariners.  Or that's what I'm thinking if I'm him.

Capt Jack is all "He'll compete for a job" (despite the major league contract) and "We'll see what happens."  Is that really necessary, skip?

Best-case is now:  we get 180 innings of a guy who finishes in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, and then he moves on.  This occurred when the Braves traded for one year of Javier Vazquez, riding him to 6.5 WAR (!), and then immediately shedding him after the exploitation.  The Nationals, in 2005, signed Esteban Loaiza to a bargain $3M and rode him to 4.6 WAR, dropping him like a bad habit after the year was over.

It says here that Iwakuma's in Seattle one year.  One and done.


Q.  What if his arm bounces back?

A.  Been there, covered that.  If he's throwing an easy 88-92 in March, he's about #20 in the AL on my draft board.

He's a WBC star, but it is for sure that his game is ML-oriented.  He is careful with the FB, aggressive with offspeed, and that's how you have to handle Nelson Cruz.

The "best case = mid-rotation starter" bit is just auto-fill FKey7 shtick.  Hisashi Iwakuma could be Doug Fister, plus a lot.  Doogie doesn't have a murderous strike-three forkball.


Q.  What if his arm does not bounce back?

A.  The worst-case scenario:  "Iwakuma goes crazy and kills all our good players" (Jeff Sullivan).  HEH!

The contract is the beauty of it.  If you pay Carlos Silva $12M, then he keeps pitching no matter what.  But you pay Iwakuma $1.5M, and if he's throwing 86 and getting hit, then .... you call up Danny Hultzen.  Hooray!  Hooray!


Q.  What would make you think his arm would bounce back?

A.  Five things:

1.  Iwakuma's own attitude, in taking this contract.  A pitcher refuses the team option because he plans on proving some people wrong.

2.  Taro's remark that Iwakuma should be fine, if babied.  It's not like Iwakuma has a Bedard-, Harden-type medical sheet.

3.  The fact that he won't have to pitch for Rakuten in 2011.  ML teams aren't going to force Iwakuma-san to drink tobasco, hang from hooks through his pecs, or throw 147 pitches in a night baseball game.

4.  Ichiro's foot acupressure stick.  (But no incentive bonus to Iwakuma if Ichiro, digesting his plum rice contentedly, bats .358.)

5.  He's got $50M, in 2013ff yen, that says his arm will bounce back.



Taro's picture

Have to agree. It sounds like Iwakuma wants to prove himself and get the payoff at years end.
It wouldn't suprise me if he'd accept a slightly below-market extension mid-season, but I think we're best off letting him go.
Let him run a 3.30 ERA in Safeco (if the arm is still live) and get his contract next year. Hopefully we can add enough players to benefit from the bargan.


If he has an 88-90 MPH FB, I don't see how he can be anything but pretty good.
His slider bites and his forker crashes into the dirt and the "Holy Shuuto" just makes people whiff.
I like his play.  He's betting the house on his own abilities.  Lee Trevino used to do that, before he won a bunch of US Opens, British Opens and PGA's.
That mid-season extension sounds possible...bu this is a great bridge into the Hultzen/Paxton years.  And it cost us squat.
Good show.


Given the M's SP depth and Iwakuma's (right-handed) lack of velocity, wouldn't be surprised to see Iwakuma end up in the bullpen at some point this season similar to Koji Uehara.
Can't help but be thrilled with this deal no matter what happens though. $1.5 million is the going rate for a good utility infielder. Even if the M's had 5 Felixes in their rotation already, it'd still be a great move to snag a potential impact SP or relief ace at that salary *and* without needing to risk being held hostage for future seasons.

ghost's picture

I'm confused...the two definitions you gave for a strong 'to' sound are completel;y different in the English language.
tot is pronounced like father or robot (the second syllable)
torque is pronounced like or or your.
Whcih is it? :)

benihana's picture

I don't see how this is that bad of a deal for Iwakuma. 
The offer he turned down from the A's was reportedly for four years and $15.25 million.  Which was, on a yearly basis ($3.8 million per) equivilant to what he was making with the Golden Eagles.
He clearly can make more than that this year with his deal with the M's.  
So, in my view, he's trading some salary certainty for an opportunity to prove himself worthy of a bigger payday down the road.  Seems sensible. 
And in no way do any of the comments I've read suggest "one and done" with regards to the M's.  In fact quite the opposite, the reports are that he and his wife fell "in love" with the city of Seattle that it reminded them of their hometown of Sendai, that they checked out schools for their daughter, that the M's "really wanted to get me" and "that was the most important thing".
It's clearly a no-risk, no-brainer move by the M's.  All upside here.  But I see no reason to assume he cannot or will not be extended, rewarded and remain a Mariner if he performs. 
- Ben.

wufners's picture

It could also make it easier for Z to trade Vargas mid-season even if the Mariners are fighting in a pennant race. 
That is assuming Vargas's new Felix/Bedard twist has turned him into something other teams will covet.

ghost's picture

Seattle is rumored to be interested in Paul Maholm...a mid-career journeyman starter coming off shoulder injuries that limited his innings a bit, but known as a finesse/groundball pitcher of modest skill. Fister before he became FISTER...basicaly.
This seriously makes me think Seattle is racking up a rotation-centered trade to get a bat.


Iwakuma might not want to pitch in front of the worst offenses deployed in 30 years if we can't fix that problem.
Jack: We love you, and you'll love our town.  See how shiny it is? 
Iwakuma: Very shiny.  I hear you deliver pizzas via seaplane.  So why just a one year contract?
Jack: Well, that arm makes us nervous.  Your old team thrashed it for no good reason.
Iwakuma: %*(#@)!!!#()$@#~!! I remember...
Jack:  But if your arm comes back strong this year we'd be very interested in signing you long-term, you understand, or picking up team options on your contract.
Iwakuma:  I appreciate that.  Have you found an offense yet?  I notice a backup catcher and my SS countryman on a minor-league deal appears to be the extent of your moves there...
Jack:  Fielder's on the way.  Almost have him, and then we'll be hitting bombs for you to win games easily, no worries.  So, one year, with some club options at good salaries if it works?
Iwakuma:  ...One year.  You like me, and I like your offense, then we can do business later in the season.  I'm not goin' down like King Felix-san, who can win a Cy Young but can't win games.  It's humiliating, and bad for the pocket book.
It works for both parties this way, I'm thinkin'.


I can see a scenario like Ben's.  We're all just reading the tea leaves here.  
... Iwakuma-san's remarks about the great city, and the Mariners sincerely wanted him, come off to me as a shot at Oakland and an attempt to save face, more than any appreciation of the M's.  They well-and-truly lowballed him, bidding less this winter than other MLB teams did.  Nothing prevented them from giving him, say, $5M plus incentives.
Let's keep in mind that Iwakuma certainly considers himself worth $10M+ per season, if not $15M.  This became clear in Oakland.
But whatever.  If Iwakuma comes out fresh, and emerges as a minor star -- quite possible IMHO -- the M's pro-Japan tendencies may drive a contract extension.  Would love to see a Cinderella ending for this, and it's not at all farfetched.


Iwakuma PLUS Maholm, in the Mariners' situation, makes no sense at all to me.  Unless they have, right now, got three Vargas deals at Stage IV.
Come ON.  They have Paxton and Hultzen IMMINENT, and they have Beavan and Furbush already established as #4-5 starters.  To that they have to add several vet starters?


If you need Iwakuma PLUS Maholm then it's because you're losing at least one and possibly two potential starters.
Felix + Pineda + Iwakuma + Vargas with literally 6 guys aimed at the #5 spot...
Yeah, we only need Maholm if we're losing some arms.
Bring on Logan Morrison!


I had enough trouble not stalking Jay Buhner the first time.  
A lefty version?!  I'd wind up in the stands with a 4' face of him on a stick.   And there goes the website, up in smoke as I morph into Big Red.


I've been thinking the same thing with just the Iwakuma signing:  Something is in the works.
I suppose this could be part of any Prince demand (Buy a Bat!), but I highly doubt it.
Vargas + Guti + Trayvon = what bat?
Substitute the young bat of your choice for Trayvon. Maybe add League.
Something like that is simmering, me thinks.

Auto5guy's picture

Wait until he notches a win against the A's.  Iwakuma will be easy to sign then. Only three other teams in major league baseball can give him as many opportunities to rub Oakland's nose in it as we can.

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