Seattle Mariners News: Hisashi Iwakuma’s Option Vests – Extension Coming Soon?


With the San Francisco Giants having finished off their seven game World Series victory over the Kansas City Royals, the Major League Baseball season is officially over and the offseason has begun. The first order of business, as usual, is teams and players picking up and declining contract options. Free agency comes next, but first the free agents must be identified.

The Seattle Mariners were expected to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s option this week. It was a foregone conclusion that as much would happen, given that Iwakuma is one of the ten best pitchers in the league and the option is for a paltry $7 million. They didn’t pick up the option! Because it vested. Which nobody knew it could do, except Iwakuma and the team.

So Iwakuma’s going to be back with the team in 2015, as expected. But this isn’t the first notable case where the publicly-available contract details of an important person within the Mariners organization didn’t match up with what the public knew about. Iwakuma’s option vested based on his on field performance, which conjures up memories about Jack Zduriencik’s one-year extension a couple offseasons ago, which was announced about a year after it was agreed to.

From that same Bob Dutton piece that revealed the vesting option, we also get confirmation of something everyone has long suspected: the M’s are looking to extend Iwakuma before he hits free agency in a year. This makes sense for everyone involved, as the Mariners really aren’t interested in losing one of their best players and Iwakuma is a 33-year-old running low on chances to get paid. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get a deal done.

To recap what Iwakuma’s done since making the move from Rakuten to Seattle: 524 innings pitched with a 3.07 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. A 50.1% groundball rate. 7.56 strikeouts per nine against 1.82 walks per nine. All that is good for 7.7 total WAR and an astoundingly good 12.3 RA9-War. Iwakuma’s been well above-average in every area aside from home run prevention, but he’s been so good at every other element of pitching that it hasn’t mattered.

Iwakuma’s back for 2015, as expected. The way his option worked out was a little surprising, but ultimately didn’t make all that much of a difference. The team would love to have him back for 2016 and beyond since he’s awesome and they like it when players are awesome. Not a bad way to start the offseason.