FREE AGENT SIGNING: LHP YUSEI KIKUCHI
Contract details: Six years, $54 million
($4M/YR1, $6M/YR2, $8M/YR3, $10M/YR4, $12M/YR5, $14M/YR6)
Jerry Dipoto might be a bit hesitant to dip into the Japanese market once again after the Shohei Ohtani debacle, but there is another successful starting pitcher planning to come overseas and he fits perfectly with the route we’ve taken in our plan. The Seibu Lions have agreed to post 27-year-old southpaw Yusei Kikuchi, one year removed from a season in which he struck out 217 hitters in 187.2 innings pitched.
Now, Kikuchi isn’t a generational talent like Ohtani, but he’s been a highly productive starter in one of the world’s most competitive baseball leagues, the NPB. It’s also not very often that we’ve seen left-handed starters make their way overseas to the MLB. He’s unique and sits at a good age to produce at a high level rather quickly upon his arrival.
So while he may not be an Ohtani type, many have compared him to the likes of Kenta Maeda and Masahiro Tanaka — a solid pitcher with the ability to be dominant on occasion. He also comes pretty cheaply, though he’ll require the insurance of guaranteed years and dollars. We propose a plan to pay him $4 million in year one, with $2 million yearly increases for each of the next 5 seasons.
Still, compared to some of the deals projected to other starters on the open market, this is absolutely the perfect opportunity for a team in the financial position the Mariners currently find themselves in.
The deal comes with one caveat, however, as Kikuchi has dealt with some lingering issues in his left shoulder over the last two seasons. This may scare off some teams from giving him the type of deal we have Seattle offering, which should ultimately help the M’s in their pursuit of Kikuchi. It’s a risk worth taking for a middle-of-the-road team preparing for life without Félix Hernández and perhaps James Paxton.