Oh Jerry. It seems as if Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto cannot go a few hours without pulling the trigger on some type of transaction, as the Mariners roster has constantly been changing since he took over the reigns in September of 2015. This offseason alone, we have seen them trade bonafide ace James Paxton to the Yankees, trade Robinson Cano and electric closer Edwin Diaz to the Mets, ship Jean Segura to Philly, and be right in the middle of a 3-team trade that sent freshly acquired Carlos Santana back to the Indians.
But on the last day of 2018, the Mariners won a bidding war for Japanese pitching star Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi, 27, was posted by his Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, on December 3rd for MLB teams to make an offer for him. The agreed-upon deal has a base of 3 years/$43 million, and following the 2021 season, the Mariners can trigger a 4 year extension worth another $66 million. However, even though a deal has been agreed upon, Kikuchi must officially sign the deal by Wednesday, January 2nd, because that is when the posting period comes to a conclusion. If this somehow does to get signed by that point, the deal becomes void. *All contract information is according to Jeff Passan*
Scouts have described Kikuchi as having a fastball that sits in the low 90’s, reaching 95-96. He has 3 quality off speed pitches (curveball, splitter, slider), the best of which is his slider, which scouts describe as well above average. According to scouts, however, stuff has not been the issue for him in his past. Staying healthy and durable throughout the marathon that is the Major League season could prove to be a challenge. His season high for innings is 187.2 (in 2017), and he has only surpassed 150 innings in a season twice. When healthy, however, he is projected to be a solid 2 or possibly even back-end #1 starter.
For all of the deals the Mariners have made, and will make in the 2018-2019 offseason, this could very well be the most impactful. Kikuchi could potentially be their opening day starter, when they take on the Athletics in the Japan Opening Series (Wow, that would be quite the storyline). Nevertheless, Mariner fans, and baseball fans in general should be excited at the prospect of watching Kikuchi pitch in 2019, as he could potentially be a very impactful pitcher for next year, and years to come.