As we've talked about, Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma first really appeared on the North American radar last offseason, when he was posted and the Oakland A's submitted a high bid of $19.1 million. The A's and Iwakuma, though, couldn't agree on a contract, and Iwakuma returned to Japan. I'd like to take you back for a moment:
Japanese media had reported that Oakland made a four-year proposal worth $15.25 million. In terms of annual salary, it is equal to what Iwakuma made with the Eagles of Japan's Pacific League.
"Their offer was low and they weren't sincere," [agent] Nomura said.
Okay, now keep that in mind. After the 2011 season, Iwakuma became a free agent. Recently, he's been linked to the Jerry Crasnick, just a little while ago:, and,
Free agent Hisashi Iwakuma has agreed on one-year deal with Mariners
Deal will pay Iwakuma a guaranteed $1.5M. He can earn $4.9M with awards and incentive bonuses based on starts and IP.
In December 2010, Iwakuma walked away from a reported $15.25 million over four years. In January 2012, he's signed for $1.5 million and one year, with a chance to make another $3.4 million given health and success. I'm not saying that Iwakuma probably regrets not signing with the A's, because nobody should want to sign with the A's, but he just signed for 10% the guaranteed money.
Of course, there's a pretty good reason for that. The 30-year-old Iwakuma missed significant time with a shoulder injury last season. He came back from it, and he's healthy now, but his velocity dropped, so there are more questions than there used to be. Salary + questions = reduced salary.
Even with the injury, and possibly because of the injury, this looks like a heck of a deal for the Mariners. The worst-case scenario is that Iwakuma goes crazy and kills all of the team's good players. The realistic worst-case scenario is that Iwakuma is bad or hurt or both, and the M's are out $1.5 million. That's not much. If Iwakuma starts hitting his incentives, which begin at 20 starts and 140 innings, he's probably pitching well, and more than earning the money. This is practically all upside.
And because it's a one-year contract, there's no future risk. That also means that Iwakuma could go somewhere else in 2013 if he's good, but he'd probably be open to re-signing with the Mariners if that's something the Mariners want to do. They'll cross that bridge several months from now.
We've talked a lot about Iwakuma lately. I don't need to re-hash it. It's hard to say whether he'll be good or bad or okay. His stuff could work, or his stuff could not work. But it's fun to consider the Hiroki Kuroda possibility, and it's just nice to see the Mariners making a Major League move. Welcome, Hisashi Iwakuma. Be awesome.