Yesterday it was announced that the Mariners would be picking up the option for Hisashi Iwakuma for the 2015 season. This shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, as Ryan Divish pointed out that he was already vested based on this season’s performance.
Iwakuma faced a bit of trouble this past season after missing all of April with a finger injury in his pitching hand.
Upon his return he was dominant though. From May through August, Kuma matched his 13 wins by allowing only 13 walks in 23 starts. He finished the season with 15 wins, a new career high.
While the last month of the season were a little rough for Iwakuma, there was still plenty to be excited about.
Picking up the 2015 option for Iwakuma was obvious, even if the M’s weren’t forced to, they should absolutely have done it, the $7 million dollar price tag is less than what he’s worth.
The concern here is that the M’s haven’t yet extended his contract. It would seem prudent for the Mariners to lock him in for the next few seasons as they build around a successful 2014 season.
The 1-2 punch of Felix Hernandez and Kuma has been lights out for the last few seasons, and I always expected that they would be the core of a playoff team in Seattle.
However, in only (so far) picking up the one year, there is now room for some speculation about whether or not the Mariners are intent on trading him. With only one year left on his contract, and a relatively inexpensive $7mil deal, he would be easy to move. I would be surprised if most teams haven’t already inquired about him.
Last year’s trade deadline deals (Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia) turned out to be mild flops, as both struggled at the plate for the last month of the season. Leaving a potential gap in the outfield as well as in the leadoff spot. Iwakuma would surely offer some decent return value for a high OBP guy to bat ahead of Robinson Cano.
While losing a pitcher like Iwakuma would hurt the Mariners, the pain is lessened slightly by having two guys who could step up and take that spot. The rotation wouldn’t be completely decimated by losing just one guy.
Personally, I think the Mariners are just waiting to see what happens. Iwakuma will garner a lot of interest in the trade market, and if something enticing enough comes along the M’s will likely pounce all over it.
But if they don’t get any offers then they can still lock him in. This is an ideal situation for the Mariners to be in, as they can slow play everything. The absolute worst case scenario is that Kuma sticks around for 2015 before taking free agency.
I’m a big Iwakuma fan, I’d love to see him stick around. But, like most Mariners fans right now, I feel like the M’s are a team on the edge of success, if trading him for a new bat is what’s needed to make that step up, then so be it.