With the Saturday deadline approaching, the Mariners agreed to a contract extension with right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Had the two sides not reached an agreement, Iwakuma would have become a free agent. Iwakuma was extended through the 2014 season and the Mariners have a club option for the 2015 season.
Because it's a contract extension and not a new contract Iwakuma will be eligible to play for the Mariners immediately in the 2013 season. Had the two sides not reached an agreement by the Saturday deadline, Iwakuma would have been granted free agency. If the Mariners would have then signed him to a new contract, he would have been ineligible to pitch until mid-May. But all of that was avoided.
“Hisashi did a very nice job for us at the end of last season as a starting pitcher and we are happy that we have come to a mutual agreement. We look forward to his veteran presence and to his contributions for the next few seasons,” said general manager Jack Zduriencik in a press release.
Iwakuma posted a 9-5 record with 2 saves as part-time starter, part-time reliever for the Mariners this past season. In the final months of the season, he was one of the Mariners more consistent starting pitchers, posting an 8-3 record with a 2.19 ERA in his final 12 starts.
"Kuma really helped solidify our rotation in the second half of the season," said manager Eric Wedge. "He is a competitor on the mound and did a great job for us. He got stronger with each start during the season and gained confidence. I am looking forward to seeing him on the field ready to work when we start spring training in Peoria."
It took some time for Iwakuma to adjust to the regimen of pitching at the MLB level, but once he adapted to it, he had success.
Iwakuma, 31, went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts. His ERA as a starter set a rookie club record, bettering the previous mark of 2.67 by Felix Hernandez in 2005. Amongst AL pitchers with at least 100.0 IP, he ranked 7th with a 3.16 ERA (44 ER, 125.1 IP), and had the 3rd-lowest ERA by an AL starter with a minimum of 15 starts.
With the extension, you have to figure that Iwakuma will be slated as part of the Mariners rotation for next season.