Report: Hisashi Iwakuma Drawing Trade Interest
The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline is just days away, and it appears Hisashi Iwakuma is generating plenty of interest from other teams. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted out on Monday night that “several teams” have reached out to the Seattle Mariners regarding their 34-year-old right-hander.
Kuma has had a rollercoaster season in 2015. Overall, Iwakuma is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA across 42 innings. Those numbers are not overly impressive, but it has been a tale of two seasons for the Tokyo, JP product. Iwakuma went 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA through his first 3 outings before going down with a lat injury. He missed nearly 3 months rehabbing before returning on July 6th. He allowed 5 runs in his first start after being activated from the DL, but he has allowed just 4 runs total in his 3 outings since.
Iwakuma has shown significant regression in numerous statistical categories this season. He is averaging just 6.9 strikeouts per 9 innings, which represents a career low. Kuma is allowing a career high 9 hits per 9 innings. The veteran right-hander is allowing 1.167 walks/hits per inning, which is his worst mark since his rookie year in 2012. Home runs have been the achilles heel for Iwakuma this season, and he is currently surrendering 2.1 home runs per 9 innings.
The way Kuma finished the 2014 season is perhaps most alarming. Over his final 7 starts last season, Iwakuma posted a 7.88 ERA across 32 innings. His subpar performance was particularly painful when you consider the Mariners fell just 1 game shy of making the postseason.
Despite these alarming numbers, Iwakuma is doing a number of things well. He is regarded as one of the best control pitchers in the game, and his 1.5 walks per 9 innings supports his reputation. His 4.57 strikeout to walk ratio this season is higher than the 4.40 mark he registered in 2013 when he was named an All-Star and finished 3rd in Cy Young voting.
There is no doubt that Iwakuma is no longer an All-Star caliber hurler, nor is he a legitimate challenger for the Cy Young. However, he still has the ability to be a nice complimentary piece in a starting rotation. It is not surprising that teams have reached out to the Mariners regarding his availability. A team desperate for starting pitching like the Toronto Blue Jays would make sense. However, it is worth noting that the M’s have yet to confirm they are willing to part with Kuma.
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The Mariners are in an interesting spot as a franchise. They are built to win now, but they are sitting 8 games under .500 and 10 games back of the division leading Los Angeles Angels. The window is now for players like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez. However, they are unlikely to reach the postseason in 2015, and it would make sense to sell off some of their impending free agents. Hisashi Iwakuma certainly fits into that category. But, Jack Zduriencik is expected to put his job security before the needs of the team, and stand pat on deadline day.
Personally, I would like to see Iwakuma get the boot. I go back to how he pitched down the stretch last season and the early part of this year, and I believe his best days are behind him. However, I do not see the Mariners pulling the trigger on a trade unless they get overwhelmed by an offer. Jack Z will not give Kuma away for nothing, and he would probably prefer a Major League ready player rather than a young prospect in return.
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