NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Well, hello. The Mariners’ traveling party hadn’t fully checked in Sunday at the Winter Meetings when news broke that pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma might be heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That news surfaced in a twitter report by ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. While there was no official confirmation, multiple subsequent reports indicated the two sides were close to an agreement.
This much is certain: The Dodgers escalated their pursuit of Iwakuma after losing free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke to Arizona.
Terms of Iwakuma’s possible deal with the Dodgers are not known, although a CBS Sports report said it was believed to be three years. Sources previously said Iwakuma was expected to make a decision in the near future.
Losing Iwakuma would be a blow to the Mariners, who must now find a front-line replacement. General manager Jerry Dipoto recently reiterated that retaining Iwakuma was the club’s top priority.
"The market is going to drive it," Dipoto said. "We've been in constant contact with Kuma, with his people, and we’re very hopeful that that happens for us."
It now appears increasingly likely the Mariners must shift gears to what Dipoto earlier termed "the next tier" in seeking a replacement.
That suggests the Mariners won’t be respond to losing Iwakuma by making a big-ticket splash, which is in line with Dipoto’s previous statements before heading to the Meetings.
"We are not likely to be about marquee names and big signings," he emphasized. "This is going to be about complimentary pieces…We’ve done our big-game hunting in the past with Nelson (Cruz), with Robby Cano, and then extending and signing Felix (Hernandez) and Kyle Seager.
"They are the core of our club, they’re signed long-term, and they are celebrated elite all-star level players. That is the group we are building around."
Translation: Don’t expect the Mariners to pursue, say, Johnny Cueto if they Iwakuma signs with the Dodgers. Or get into the bidding for Chris Davis to fill their gap at first base.
Check Dipoto’s record to date.
Yes, the Mariners have been busy. Their 40-man roster has 15 new faces in the 10 weeks since Dipoto took command of the club, but none can be characterized as high-profile acquisitions.
Nine of the 15 are not yet eligible for arbitration. None of the remaining six have guaranteed deals for more than one year, and their combined guaranteed salaries only total about $23 million.
"What we’ve been trying to do," Dipoto said, "and I think we’re doing it effectively, is raise the floor around (the core group) so that we have the ability to go out and stretch that lineup and make it deeper."
WOODWARD TO DODGERS
The Dodgers are also poised to add former Mariners first-base coach Chris Woodward to their staff under new manager Dave Roberts, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Woodward was offered the chance to remain with the Mariners after Dipoto fired former manager Lloyd McClendon, but he opted to resign after citing a desire to be closer to his family in Florida.
Roberts was one of three finalists to replace McClendon as the Mariners’ manager before they hired Scott Servais.