BY Steve Rudman 04:56PM 12/18/2015

Dipoto: Iwakuma’s return a ‘gift from ownership’

Hisashi Iwakuma, who failed his physical with the Dodgers, returns to the Mariners’ rotation on a one-year deal with two option years and a boatload of incentives.

Hisashi Iwakuma will return to the Mariners rotation in 2016. / Wiki Commons

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto Thursday described the return of Hisashi Iwakuma to the Seattle rotation as “a gift to the organization, the city and the fan base from our ownership.”

Dipoto, who negotiated with Iwakuma from September to the first part of December only to have the righthander sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, added, “This was an opportunity to do the right thing. We reunited a player who wanted to be here with a team that wanted him.”

Iwakuma, who has been with the Mariners since 2012, couldn’t come to terms with the Mariners on the length of a contract and agreed to join the Dodgers Dec. 6 for a reported $45 million over three years. But the Dodgers didn’t like the results of Iwakuma’s physical exam earlier this week and backed out of the deal, leaving open the possibility that Iwakuma would still sign, but under different terms.

Instead, Dipoto and the Mariners pounced on Iwakuma’s sudden availability.

“It took everybody in the front office less than five minutes to get on board with this,” said Dipoto. “It’s rare to have a group so fundamentally in line. After that, it came together very quickly. We are very excited to bring him back. It’s a good day for us and it puts a finishing touch on what has been a productive offseason.”

At a news conference Friday at Safeco Field, Iwakuma sounded gratified at his return: “I felt love, passion and needed here more than anything else, and that’s why I”m here.”

With Iwakuma’s return, the Mariners have more starting pitchers — Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and newcomers Wade Miley and Nathan Karns — than they have rotation slots, an ideal situation as far as Dipoto is concerned.

“If you line up our rotation and add Hisashi, that gives us the kind of depth we want to get,” Dipoto said. “If you think you’re going to get through the season with five starters, you are fooling yourself. The average team is going to use 10 starters. We wanted to make sure we had enough depth to deal with that. I’m’ very comfortable that now we will put together a good rotation by Opening Day.”

Dipoto would not disclose the terms of Iwakuma’s deal, but conceded that the “structure of the deal” is different than the one Iwakuma rejected.

Iwakuma signed a one-year deal with Seattle worth $10 million in 2016 and received a $1 million signing bonus. The Mariners also have $10 million options in 2017 and 2018. Iwakuma would receive a $1 million buyout if either is declined. The 2017 option would become guaranteed at $14 million if Iwakuma pitches 162 innings next season, and the 2018 option would become guaranteed at $15 million if he pitches 162 innings in 2017 or 324 combined over the next two years.

In addition to other innings-pitched bonuses, Iwakuma will receive eight business-class airplane tickets annually to Japan. He also has a no-trade clause.

“Everybody is comfortable,” said Dipoto. “The situation has righted itself and we’re thrilled. There was no mistaking the fact he wanted to come back. He’s always been comfortable here and his family is comfortable here. This hit the sweet spot for everybody.”

Dipoto also said he never harbored qualms about bringing Iwakuma back despite the negative results of his Dodgers physical.

“We’ve always been comfortable with his medical circumstance. We know his history as well as anybody. This was very simple,” he said.

The 34-year-old Iwakuma went 9-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 20 starts with Seattle last season, including 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA with 43 strikeouts in his final seven starts. Seattle won 11 of his final 16 starts when he went 9-4 with a 2.82 ERA with 97 strikeouts.

The highlight moment of Iwakuma’s season came Aug. 12 against Baltimore when he threw the fifth no-hitter in franchise history (fourth by a single pitcher) and became the second Japanese-born pitcher with an MLB no-hitter (Hideo Nomo twice).

In four seasons with Seattle, Iwakuma is 47-25 with a 3.17 ERA and 551 strikeouts in 111 games, including 97 starts. Since joining the Mariners rotation July 2, 2012, his 3.09 ERA as a starter is the fourth-best in the American League. Iwakuma ranks behind just Felix Hernandez (2.89), David Price (2.89) and Chris Sale (3.05) in the AL.

Notes

With Iwakuma’s return, the Mariners made two corresponding moves Friday. They traded LHP Tyler Olson to the Dodgers in exchange for a player to be named later, or cash considerations. They also designated OF Dan Robertson for assignment to clear a roster spot for Iwakuma.

The Mariners designated the 26-year-old Olson for assignment Dec. 16 to make room on the roster for RHP A.J. Schugel. Olson appeared in 11 games as a reliever for Seattle last season (1-1, 5.40 ERA) and spent the rest of the year at AAA Tacoma following a stint on the disabled list.

The Mariners claimed Robertson, 30, off waivers from the Angels Nov. 6. Robertson split last season between the Angels and AAA Salt Lake City. In parts of two MLB seasons with the Angels (2015) and Rangers (2014), he combined to hit .274 with 33 runs and 28 RBIs in 107 games.


YourThoughts

  • Jamo57

    Um…….thanks…….(with the enthusiasm of getting socks and underwear for Christmas). Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, or David Price were what we asked Santa for.

    Can’t wait to see what ownership gifts us with next. Ichiro?

    I guess we were naughty fans this year…………..

    • Dick/Johnson

      Well, how ’bout ‘Coal’ Hamels? haha

      • Jamo57

        Well done, sir! LOL

        • art thiel

          Chone Figgy Pudding is still out there.

      • dingle

        I laughed. I groaned, too, but I still laughed.

    • dingle

      Yes, you were. You attended to the tune of over 27,000 per game, even though the team was a meth lab on a flaming train, on a collision course with a tractor trailer full of shotgun shells.

      Very naughty.

      They tried to sign Steve “Rainbow” Trout, but eventually realized that he’d been out of baseball for 25 years.

      • Jamo57

        Actually I haven’t been since Howard yelled at us hockey and hoops fans to get off his lawn.

      • art thiel

        Hey, wait a minute. Ridiculous analogies are my department.

    • art thiel

      You got Cruz last year and you want more? Greedy, greedy . . .

      • Jamo57

        My Cano is broke. I lost the gift receipt and didn’t opt for the extended warranty.

        • art thiel

          I have the remedy: Put it at first base.

          • Jamo57

            Is that the latest patch in the anti-parasite, er….., anti-virus software? I’ll try it. Thanks, tech support!

  • Just Another Bullwhip

    “Dipoto said, ‘We reunited a player who wanted to be here with a team that wanted him.’”

    Ya, right. He wanted to be here so badly that he, essentially, signed with the Dodgers. And the Mariners wanted him back so badly they let him walk.

    “Iwakuma sounded gratified at his return: ‘I felt love, passion and needed here more than anything else, and that’s why I”m here.’”

    You are here because the Dodgers snubbed you, and in a fit of pique you decided to not give the Dodgers any further chances.

    “’Everybody is comfortable,’ said Dipoto. ‘The situation has righted itself and we’re thrilled. There was no mistaking the fact he wanted to come back. He’s always been comfortable here and his family is comfortable here. This hit the sweet spot for everybody.’”

    You mean that “sweet spot” where the Mariners only guarantee one year and Iwakuma has to take it? Oh, and do not forget the business class tickets or the no trade clause, which of course is meaningless, because if he performs, the Mariners are going to want to keep him, and beside, how much is someone going to trade for a 35-plus year old pitcher.

    This whole episode reads like a comedy.

    • meghantchambers


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    • Pixdawg13

      At least Scrooge saw the error of his ways–you, however…not likely. It must be no fun being so negative all the time.

      • bugzapper

        Oh, I dunno. The whole description sounds pretty accurate to me. Lincoln is the Goblin of Christmas Past, Present and, unfortunately, Future. Until that changes we’ll be having the same creepy dream every year about this time.

    • art thiel

      I must say I am put off by all the lovey-cuddly stuff. This was pure bidness. Kuma reached for the moon, and had it for a couple of weeks when, I suspect, the Dodgers had cold feet about three guaranteed years for a 35 year old pitcher. They found a flyspeck on an MRI and said he was hurt. Deal over.

      Not the first time for that in baseball.

      • jafabian

        Probably smarting after it was shown they didn’t do their homework on Chapman.

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  • bugzapper

    “A gift from ownership?” Thanks for the fruitcake, Howard.

    • art thiel

      Only one guaranteed year elevates it to pumpkin bread.

  • Jeff Shope

    oh spare me the ownership run by that moron howard lincoln have been overcharging fans for a crap on field product for years they owe us. gift my arse

    • art thiel

      Dipoto doesn’t quite get yet the nuances of the fan relationship you describe.

  • tor5

    Some of us will remember that when they ignored the vote of the people and built Safeco Field with public money, ownership promised us a competitive team year after year with all the revenue generated by the new stadium. All we’ve had since is mediocrity and an annual lecture from Howard Lincoln about how much ownership is sacrificing for a little above average payroll. Now they make a no-brainer move and tell us it’s a “gift from ownership.” I’m a fan of the players and am intrigued by Dipoto, but Lincoln and the owners treat fans like mindless children.