Iwakuma signing strengthens Mariners rotation

Japanese star Hisashi Iwakuma signed a one-year deal with the Mariners on Thursday. (Getty Photos)

Understanding that Mariners fans are crying out for offense — and anybody not named Prince Fielder bears little interest to some at this point — the club made an intriguing move to upgrade its pitching rotation with Thursday’s signing of Hisashi Iwakuma.

Iwakuma, one of the premier pitchers in Japan over the past decade, signed a one-year deal at a low-risk $1.5 million base salary with another potential $3.4 million in performance incentives, according to figures released first by ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

The deal is very similar to Erik Bedard’s $1 million base contract last year that included bonus levels for the number of innings pitched and games started.

Iwakuma, 30, first tried coming to the Major Leagues last year, but couldn’t reach agreement with the A’s on a much-higher contract offer after Oakland won the right to negotiate with him with the top posting bid of $19.1 million.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder instead remained in his home country last season and then became a free agent, which occurs after nine seasons of professional ball in Japan’s system.

It appears Iwakuma’s bargaining power dropped with an injury-shortened 2011 season when he missed two months with a sore shoulder. But he came back to pitch the final 11 games last year and if he’s healthy, the Mariners just added a guy who could really help fill out their rotation.

Iwakuma was the Pacific League MVP in 2008 when he went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA. He has a career mark of 107-69 in 226 games with Kintetsu and Rakuten.

“Iwakuma has been a highly successful pitcher in Japan,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “We look forward to his contributions to the Seattle Mariners, as he will be given the opportunity to be part of our starting rotation.”

Iwakuma will be on a conference call with Mariners media members at 6:30 p.m. PT and I’ll provide a full update on Mariners.com.

1 Comment

From the articles I’ve read, it seems as though Mr. Iwakuma has had a bit of a competition with Mr. Darvish in the past. Nothing like a bit of rivalry to get some dander up. Look forward to some great head-to-head match-ups and an overall competition with the Rangers new $100 million dollar man!

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