This is pretty significant news all by itself, so it gets its own post. For the rest of the Mariners’ recent moves, stay tuned later this week.
Here’s what we know. The Mariners have Kikuchi signed for 3 years and $43 million. From there, let’s say he stinks or otherwise the M’s don’t want him around anymore and his value plummets; he has a player option for 1 year and $13 million. On the flipside, let’s say after those 3 years, he’s tremendous. The Mariners have a team option for 4 years and $66 million ($16.5 million per), which voids the player option and keeps him around for a full 7 seasons. Both the team and player could also opt to mutually part ways after those first 3 years, so it’s either:
- 3 years, $43 million
- 4 years, $56 million (player option)
- 7 years, $109 million (team option)
So, that’s interesting, right?
Kikuchi is a 27-year old left hander from Japan. The M’s haven’t really been too successful with these guys since, I guess, Iwakuma? A lot of bigger names have come through the pipeline, only to fall to other teams, so this is a pretty significant get, especially for a team that’s clearly rebuilding. The draw has to be that he’s allowed to start right away and that it’s a relatively soft landing. Low expectations, and the ability to work him in slowly.
Apparently, the plan is to have him be an “Opener” every fourth or fifth start, and to otherwise keep his innings limited, to reduce the strain on his arm and help acclimate him to the MLB way of life. In Japan, I guess they use six starters, so everyone is pitching just once a week (God, that seems like a MUCH better way of doing things; I wish we’d expand the rosters to 30 and give that a try). Considering the Mariners aren’t playing for anything in 2019, I’m all for it.
From reading around the Internet, it sounds like Kikuchi throws in the low-to-mid 90s, so he’ll fit in perfectly with the other softer-tossing lefties we’ve got on this team. I’d expect to throw that “mid” part right out the window when he comes here; most likely he’ll be scraping by with stuff around 90 or 91, which means he’s going to have to be accurate with what he’s throwing. I’d love it if he could primarily force hitters to keep the ball on the ground. It doesn’t sound like he has an amazing change-up, which has me worried about what righties might do to him. At this point, it’s just wait-and-see.
I like the signing, though. He’s got potential to be a solid #2 or #3 starter for this team for a long time. Ideally, for 2019, he just stays healthy and doesn’t totally shatter his confidence. I’m not expecting the moon and the stars for him or anyone on this team; I just want to see improvement out of our younger core group, and especially for those guys in the minors who we’ll be counting on in 2020 and beyond.