The Seattle Mariners have reportedly agreed to a deal with the prize of the international pool this winter, Yusei Kikuchi. While the rest of the baseball world plays catch up to Dipoto’s methods, we have numbers to break down.
The deal, as reported by Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman, is as unusual as they come. Here is the straightforward part, Kikuchi will be a Mariners pitcher for 3 years guaranteed. In those 3 years, he will earn $43 million, an AAV of $14.33 million.
Seems fine enough. Now comes the tricky part. There are 2 options after year 3, one for the team and one for Kikuchi. For their part, the Mariners can, after the 2021 season, chose to extend Kikuchi for 4 additional years worth $66 million total, or $16.5 AAV. For the Mariners, they can choose to control the 27-year-old lefty for a maximum of 7-years, $109 million.
However, if the Mariners decide to decline their option, Kikuchi can activate a player option for the 2022 season, worth $13 million, or decline the option, making him a free agent. For Kikuchi, he can look at this as a 4 year, $56 million guaranteed contracts.
But is the Japanese pitcher worth that much money? After all, he has never thrown a pitch in MLB, right? First of all, it is important to know what type of pitcher Kikuchi is. For an in-depth breakdown of what he brings on the mound, we wrote about his stuff 2 months ago, which you can read by clicking here.
But basically, the general consensus on Kikuchi is that he is likely a strong number 3 starter with the upside to be a legitimate number 2. What does this mean? Basically, he should be J.A. Happ and could be Patrick Corbin. If this is the case, the Mariners did extremely well in this deal.
Consider that Happ, a 36-year-old pitcher, got a 2-year, $34 million contract this winter from the Yankees. A $17 million AAV for Happ. At maximum, Kikuchi will earn $15.6 million AAV and is 8 1/2 years younger.
Patrick Corbin signed a 6-year, $140 million contract with the Washington Nationals, an AAV of $23.33 million. Corbin is 29 and is coming off a career season. Kikuchi is 2-years younger and will average just under $8 million less than Corbin will.
Overall, the contract signed is good for Kikuchi and great for the Mariners. Seattle gets a tremendous upside with minimal risk. Kikuchi fits their timeline, upgrades the rotation, and gives the Mariners a foundation to build their rotation from with guys like Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, and Logan Gilbert.
It may be unorthodox, but don’t let any “expert” confuse you with senseless questions. The Mariners have told you all off-season that they want to be ready to compete by 2021 at the latest. This signing, and really this whole off-season has been a testament to just that. The Seattle Mariners finally have a plan to win 90+ games and challenge for the AL West and World Series, and it took one more step today.