Seattle Mariners Sign Japanese Star Hisashi Iwakuma: A Fan’s Reaction

The Seattle Mariners have officially signed Japanese free agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. This is a huge signing for the Mariners, especially due to how cheap the contract is for the team. According to, the Mariners were able to sign him for a $1.5 million one-year deal. That seems like a steal if he finds success in Major League Baseball and it should also make fans that were worried about spending too much money on pitching breathe a sigh of relief.

These negations seemed to go on for a while, but it seems like Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik knew what he was doing. Iwakuma is a right-handed pitcher who has played for the Tokoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League. In the last four years for the Golden Eagles, Iwakuma has posted a 55-31 record, with a 2.67 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. His high-water mark was in 2008 when he went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA and 159 strikeouts over 201 2/3 innings. In the 2011 season, Iwakuma started just 17 games, going 6-7 with a 2.42 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 119 innings.

It looks like the Mariners also put a number of incentives in the contract for Iwakuma, giving him the chance to earn an additional $3.3 million based on how much he pitches in the 2012 season. This makes it sound like Iwakuma could strike it rich if he proves that he deserves to hold down a spot in the starting rotation for the full year. Hopefully he does exactly that, especially since he pitches with great control and seems to have the same type of rubber arm that allowed Jamie Moyer to pitch forever in MLB.

To put it bluntly, this was a great signing by the Mariners. He comes to the team with very little risk and a $1.5 million deal. That is basically nothing for someone who could eat up a lot of innings in 2012 and it will seem like a huge steal if he ends up getting double-digits in wins. Every die-hard Mariners fan is going to start thinking about the possibilities he brings to the team, but let's not get our expectations too high just yet. He is penciled in as either the No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher in the starting rotation next year and hopefully he earns it during Spring Training.

This signing also gives fans another reason to head down to the games in Peoria this March to see what players like Iwakuma, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton can do.

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*Ryan is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who never misses an opportunity to attend a game at Safeco Field. He has been attending games since 1985, and has fond memories of The Kingdome, Edgar Martinez, and the historic 1995 team. Sodo Mojo!

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Updated Thursday, Jan 5, 2012