On Wednesday afternoon, November 3, Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi declined his $13 million player option for 2022 after the Mariners declined their multi year option on Kikuchi. This comes as a large shock to most Mariners fans and baseball fans. Multiple outlets have reported on Kikuchi declining his option on Twitter. Most notably, Seattle Times Beat Reporter, Ryan Divish.
Yusei Kikuchi declining his player option is surprising to many because of Kikuchi’s up and down 2021 season. Kikuchi put up really good numbers, even looking like an ace at times, in the first half. In the first half Kikuchi had an ERA of just under 3.50 and had a FIP of 4.36 according to Fangraphs. This suggests that Kikuchi was overall around a league-average pitcher, but he flashed #2 starter stuff at times as his fastball was above 95 MPH in the first half.
Yusei Kikuchi is no longer a member of the Seattle Mariners
Kikuchi’s second half was much worse. In the second half Kikuchi had an ERA of almost 6.00 and a FIP of over 5. Both suggest awful performance, which all Mariners fans saw in 2021 down the stretch. Kikuchi lost the trust of the Mariners down the stretch and had several starts that manager Scott Servais called non-competitive. This shows that the Mariners front office was clearly not happy with Kikuchi’s performance.
Now, why is it such a big deal that Kikuchi declined his option? It is because everyone expected that Kikuchi, who had a bad end to the season, would take $13 million guaranteed to him. His declining it is a shock since it is hard to envision for fans, anyone turning down a choice to make $13 million. Divish’s comment at the end of the tweet suggests why Kikuchi would decline his option, he wants to prove he can be a starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Yusei Kikuchi was not going to get another legitimate chance to start again in 2022 since the Mariners publicly soured on him. Kikuchi is taking a risk and betting on himself. He is choosing to become a free agent and he is doing this with the desire to be a starting pitcher, not a reliever, which the Mariners were not going to allow Kikuchi to do.
Kikuchi declining his option is good news for the Mariners and Mariners fans. Now, the Mariners have an extra $13 million to spend that everyone thought was going to Yusei Kikuchi. This gives the Mariners even more payroll flexibility going into the offseason and they now have less than $50 million in projected payroll with arbitration salaries factored in. This kicks off what is going to be a fun offseason for the Seattle Mariners.