A signing that had rumbled quietly around the baseball internet came to fruition today as the Mariners announced the signing of Japanese RHP Yoshihisa Hirano to a major league deal.
Hirano contract with #Mariners, per source: One year, $1.6M, plus performance bonuses.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2020
Hirano bonuses with #Mariners: $50K each for 30 and 35 games pitched; $75K each for 45 and 50; $100K for 55, $150K for 60. In addition: $50K for 20 games finished; $75K each for 25 and 30 gf; $100K for 35; $150K for 40.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 30, 2020
Hirano, about to turn 36, came to the United States two years ago from NPB. A former first overall pick in the 2005 NPB draft, he pitched 12 full seasons in NPB, exclusively as a reliever after 2010. After coming to Arizona, he put up good, but not great, numbers over his two seasons, with a solid number of strikeouts to balance out a relatively high walk rate (9.05 K/9 against a 3.39 BB/9). Hirano has typically used his fastball and splitter in approximately equal amounts, but the results were very different. In 2019, hitters slugged .613 against his fastball and a measly .273 against his splitter. The splitter posted a mind-bending 21.49 Whiff Percentage, which he needed, since the fastball got hit often and hard (yielding a .344 batting average versus the splitter’s .198). If the Mariners want some cheap and easy genius points from the rest of baseball, they can tell Hirano not to throw his fastball and see what happens.
To make room for Hirano, the Mariners DFA’d 22-year-old LHP Ricardo Sánchez. This is a pretty huge surprise, as Sánchez would be fairly far down the list of DFA candidates for most observers of the team. Though Sánchez was out of options, he posted a 3.40 FIP for Arkansas last year—again, at age 22—and it seems difficult to imagine a club in roughly Seattle’s place on the win curve won’t snap him up to see what he has in Spring Training. It’s always possible we learn something more later, but at this point, it’s hard to see the reasoning in dropping a potential rotation candidate while seemingly less-valuable relievers and a swath of utility infielders remain on the 40 man.
In other transaction news, many reports have connected the Mariners to former Oriole and Marlin Wei-Yin Chen, this morning after he posted a picture of himself sipping from a Seattle skyline Starbucks mug a—
Wei-Yin Chen has deal with Mariners— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 30, 2020
It might have been a slower offseason, but Jerry Dipoto works fast when he works. Wei-Yin Chen will be paid $22,000,000 by the Miami Marlins in 2020, having been DFA’d and released by them. Chen worked exclusively out of Miami’s bullpen in 2019, throwing 68.1 IP in 45 games with no starts, resulting in a 5.23/4.83 FIP/xFIP and -0.4 fWAR. We’ll update as terms and a 40-man move become available, if applicable.
UPDATE: Greg Johns says Chen will be a minor league deal.