The rumors started more than a month ago but today, the Mariners finalized a 1-year contract with a potential closer.
Today the Seattle Mariners finally signed Yoshihisa Hirano, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to a 1-year deal worth $1.6 million with a slew of incentives that could earn him an additional $900,000 plus a clause that gives him $250,000 every time he is traded.
The deal was long rumored to be in the works. Things heated up in the past 24 hours and the deal was officially announced today.
Hirano had a great rookie season in 2018, posting a 173 ERA+, a 2.44 ERA, and a 1.3 bWAR. Hirano hit a bit of a rough patch in 2019 but still posted a 4.04 FIP and saw his strikeouts jump from 8.0 K/9 in 2018 to 10.4 K/9 last year.
Hirano relies heavily on a fastball and splitter and while his velocity won’t blow you away, he was elite at avoiding hard contact in 2019. The splitter resulted in a 39.6% whiff rate, a true swing and miss offering.
Hirano doesn’t have much experience as a closer but in a bullpen filled without a lot of experience and no established closer on the roster, Hirano might get a few opportunities.
To make room for Hirano, the Mariners DFA’d left-handed pitcher Ricardo Sanchez. Acquired from Atlanta for cash last winter, Sanchez spent the entire year in AA Arkansas. He was the most consistent starter for the Travelers, though he did fall hard at the end of the season.
Sanchez was likely slated to start the year in AAA Tacoma’s rotation but now finds himself in waiver limbo. Seattle has 7 days to trade him, release him, or option him to the minors. Sanchez has a decent chance of clearing waivers and remaining with the organization.
Sanchez was a Top 30 prospect last season and joins Reggie McClain on the waiver wire. The Mariners may not be done adding to their bullpen or rotation, as pitchers and catchers now report in just 2 weeks.