Free Agent Watch: Mariners Sign Iwakuma, Perez

Because there’s almost never anything to write about on Thursdays.  And because I can’t ignore the Mariners ENTIRELY this offseason (one of these days I will get to a 2012 recap, though you can see why I’d want to put off such an endeavor).  And because it’s going to help my brain to keep track of these offseason moves as they happen (or almost as they happen).

One thing I would hope we can look forward to as Mariners fans this offseason is a more robust Hot Stove market.  Last offseason, who were our big “gets”?  Honestly, I’m asking you, WHO?  I know Iwakuma was one of them, but he was an unknown quantity on a 1-year try-out deal coming off shoulder problems.  Oliver Perez was one too, but he was buried underneath a minor-league deal.  Jesus Montero was our big trade and we were forced to feast upon that for weeks and weeks before the season started.  John Jaso was a more-minor trade that we almost entirely ignored (but who turned out to be the most important of all).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is:  last offseason was boring as SHIT.  This offseason, however, proves to be something worth following.  The Mariners have gone on record as stating they’re willing to increase payroll over the $85-or-so million with which they started last season.  Whether they’re blowing smoke up our asses following an ill-timed (and ill-executed) season ticket increase, I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.  But, the Mariners SAYING they’ll increase payroll is better than them not saying anything at all (their silence implying no increase whatsoever, and in fact, more likely a reduction).

On the downside, the organization investing in itself means it might be less-likely they’d be willing to sell to an owner who’s worth a damn.  I’m trying not to think that way, however.  After the election on Tuesday, everything’s coming up Milhouse, and I’d like to ride that gravy train as long as possible.

With money to spend, that could mean any number of things.  We can sign guys like Josh Hamilton if we’re so inclined.  We can sign other, less-flashy guys.  We can trade for people with big contracts (so long as they’re not aging, or on a 1-year deal).  We can do SO MANY THINGS!

Like, for starters, bringing back Hisashi Iwakuma to be a back-end starter.  I’m pleased with this deal.  It’s either 2 years, $14 million or 3 years, $20 million.  You figure, if he earns his third year, he’ll easily be worth the overall pricetag.  Iwakuma was solid last year once he cracked the starting rotation and got whatever first half issues he had under control.  If you’ll remember, Iwakuma was buried as the last man out of the bullpen (the Jeff Gray spot).  He pitched under the most controlled situations (usually blowouts) and he went days, sometimes weeks at a time between appearances.  Maybe the team was protecting him as he entered a new league.  Maybe he needed to build up arm strength before they’d trust him.  Maybe he just needed to figure out how to locate better.  Whatever the case, he worked a lot of bullpen sessions between games and it must have worked, because he was our best starting pitcher down the stretch.

Now, with Iwakuma, we’ve got Felix, presumably one more year of Vargas, Erasmo Ramirez, and whoever manages to come in and win that fifth spot.  Either a wily veteran, or one of our young guns in the minors who gets a shot in Spring Training.  Or, I guess, Blake Beavan (sigh).

Not the greatest rotation in the world, but we’re really just waiting around until all the young guns make the leap.

As for Perez, he’s a lefty out of the bullpen.  He’s got a live fastball and presumably some other pitches.  He was good out of the bullpen last year and he’ll presumably be good out of the bullpen this year.  Once again, it looks like we’ll have one of the better bullpens in baseball.  If the team doesn’t trade any of them, then it also appears as if our bullpen is officially set.  We’ve got 4 months until Spring Training and our bullpen is done!  Way to go, team!  Way to get your homework done on Friday afternoon so you have the rest of the weekend to play!

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