Seattle Mariners Welcome Back Old Friend

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 3: Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma
SEATTLE, WA - MAY 3: Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma /

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back! The Seattle Mariners announced today that Hisashi Iwakuma has signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners that includes an invite to Spring Training.

The news broke shortly before noon on Monday, that “Kuma the Bear” would be coming back to Spring Training with the Seattle Mariners. Seattle recently declined a $10 million option on Iwakuma, after an injury riddled 2017, that saw the former Cy Young contender start just 6 games.

Iwakuma has shown to be a league average starter as recently as 2016. That year, he made all 33 starts, giving the Mariners 199 innings of 4.27 FIP quality innings. No longer a solid #2 he once was, Kuma is still capable of providing quality innings in the back half of the rotation.

A minor league deal with an invite to spring training is a low risk, high reward move for the Mariners. If Iwakuma cannot get back to full health and compete, the Mariners lose nothing. If he show what he did in 2016, Seattle has a perfect #4 or #5 starter at a dirt cheap price.

The 36-year-old underwent shoulder surgery in October, and is expected to begin throwing in February. Iwakuma will be given a real shot at claiming the final spot in the rotation.

Whether or not the veteran will crack the rotation is another story. Seattle has 3 spots locked down with James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, and Mike Leake entrenched in the rotation. Seattle is also in heavy pursuit of fellow countryman Shohei Ohtani. Should they land him, there will be 1 spot up for grabs.

The current group fighting for the 5 spot is a long list. Incumbents Ariel Miranda and Erasmo Ramirez appear to hold the lead. However; young bucks Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore will also be in the mix.

Next: Can the Mariners find their way into the Giancarlo Stanton Deal?

Of course, is all assuming that the Mariners don’t go add an arm like Alex Cobb or Yu Darvish to its rotation. Iwakuma faces a long road to get back to the big leagues. But at least he will get to try in familiar space. Welcome back Kuma, welcome back.