Hisashi Iwakuma may be leaving the Golden Eagles to come to the Major Leagues.
Various reports have the Mariners and right handed, Japanese starter, Hisashi Iwakuma either in discussion or closing in on a contract to bring the pitcher state side. Unlike his country mate (and possible future AL West Rival) Yu Darvish, Iwakuma will not require a blind bid/posting fee. It was thought Iwakuma was coming to the big leagues last year after being posted by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, however talks with the Oakland A’s never picked up steam. All of this after the A’s bid 19 million to gain their exclusive negotiating rights. Along with the Mariners, the A’s and two other teams are currently showing interest in the free agent pitcher.
Hisashi will be 31 next April, while he’s not old, he’s not exactly a young pitcher either. To further complicate matters, his 2011 season saw him miss some time due to a should injury also. For the year Iwakuma finished with a 2.42 ERA in 17 games. He threw 119 innings, striking out 90 and walking only 19 batters. Prior to his shortened 2011 season, Iwakuma has had plenty of success pitching in Japan. Since 2008 Hishasi has posted a 50-26 record, striking out 523 in the 690.2 innings pitched in that time frame.
Iwakuma has the ability to strike hitters out in Japan, but according to multiple reports, he is better off pitching to contact where his ground ball tendencies come into effect. If he makes the transition to Major League Baseball getting ground balls and pitching to contact will become that much more important as the quality of hitter drastically improves.
Iwakuma possess an 87 to 91 MPH fastball, which he uses along side his splitter, slider and Shuuto (think two-seamer) He also is no stranger to the spotlight, starting games in both the 2004 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic, including the Championship Game against South Korea.
So now we are at the point where the question must be asked. Should the Mariner’s invest in the skill set and pitcher described above? Unfortunately the answer isn’t a simple yes or no at this point. As is the case with most players, the driving force between yes (value) and no (overpaid) is made clear when we know the type of money and length of contract being signed. At this point I have yet to see any dollar figures thrown around and until we see what it could cost, the answer is, sure, as long as it doesn’t cost too much.
But knowing what we know, with the M’s wanting to add a veteran arm, and names such as Jeff Francis, Kevin Millwood and even Jamie Moyer being thrown around, it could be a beneficial deal for the team. We all know what we are getting with the above names, but with Iwakuma, while riskier, also offers greater upside. Now that isn’t to say he could become an ace in the big leagues, but a borderline 2, strong number 3, something Francis, Millwood and Moyer can’t offer, isn’t out of the question.
The challenges Japanese pitchers face coming state side has been beat to death and then some, so we won’t get into that aspect of the rumor, but assuming Iwakuma doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, he could fill an offseason shopping list item. We should know more shortly.