Iwakuma Is Back

The plan for today was to write about the minor league free agents recently signed by Seattle who will probably play for Tacoma this coming season. We’re still going to do that, but we got some surprising news late last night.

Straight out of nowhere, the Mariners re-signed veteran starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma – who was thought to be long gone.

A free agent after 2015, Iwakuma reportedly agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This happened right at the start of the Winter Meetings. The Mariners had hoped to re-sign Iwakuma, so this news was a bummer and it forced them to make a deal for a veteran starter – which they did, in the Carson SmithWade Miley trade.

But the Dodgers deal with Iwakuma was never completed. It turns out that something came up during Iwakuma’s physical that the Dodgers weren’t comfortable with.

Whatever it was, the Mariners are OK with it – because they swooped in and signed Iwakuma to a one-year deal which includes vesting options for two more years (based on innings pitched).

It’s a big get for the Mariners, who now have six established starting pitchers going into spring training. This gives them protection in the event of an injury.

To make room for Iwakuma on the 40-man roster, recently acquired outfielder Daniel Robertson was designated for assignment. We’ll have to wait and see if he clears waivers.

The team also officially announced the signing of five veteran minor league free agents. Each player is also invited to major league spring training.

Two of the players we already knew were in the mix: outfielder/first baseman Mike Baxter and utility infielder Ed Lucas.

The three new names are pitchers: left-handed starter Brad Mills, and right-handed relievers Blake Parker and Casey Coleman.

Mills knows his way around the Pacific Coast League: he’s pitched for Las Vegas, Salt Lake, Round Rock, and (for the last two years) Nashville. He’s made 130 career starts in the PCL – adding in another six outings in the International League and Mills has a 4.20 ERA in 136 Triple-A starts. Mills is a change-up artist and we’ll go ahead and pencil him into the Rainiers starting rotation.

Parker was terrific out of the Iowa Cubs bullpen from 2011-2014, riding the shuttle between Triple-A and the big leagues during the later three seasons. He pitched in just three games last year due to elbow problems, but if he’s back to full health he could not only help Tacoma but also compete for a spot in the Mariners bullpen.

Coleman is another former Cub who has pitched in 58 major league games – including 26 big league starts. As a swing man for Omaha last season, Coleman went 5-4, 4.92. Coleman provides more veteran pitching depth for the organization.

All five of these players have considerable major league experience, and all five are possible Tacoma players in April.

Even though these players are technically listed as “minor league free agents” they do get paid well, due to their extensive major league experience. Seattle has already signed six minor league free agents with MLB experience: the five above, plus pitcher Donn Roach. It appears that they are spending more money than usual on solid Triple-A depth pieces – which should help Tacoma field a better club.

This just in: left-hander Tyler Olson was traded this afternoon to the Dodgers for “a player to be named later or cash.” The 2015 Rainiers/Mariners reliever out of Gonzaga will get a new start with L.A. Their Triple-A club is in Oklahoma City.

Links:

  • Here is the news story on Hisashi Iwakuma re-signing.
  • The Times has a report on the five minor league signings.
  • Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs writes that Tony Zych is the Mariners secret weapon.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners hitting coach Howard Johnson is going to manage the Class-A High Desert club for the Texas Rangers this season.
  • Speaking of the Rangers, they signed former Rainiers outfielder Justin Ruggiano to a one-year major league deal.
  • The Padres are taking a look at the oft-injured former Mariners and Rainiers pitcher Brandon Morrow.
  • In this important story for ESPN, Jim Caple correctly tabs Ichiro as baseball’s Yoda.
  • They’re playing minor league ice hockey outdoors at Sacramento’s Raley Field (link includes pictures).

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