Chicago Cubs: Is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma worth looking at this winter?
After the Chicago Cubs signed southpaw Jon Lester, the starting rotation for this club looked as if it was going to be lights out. Now that their season is done and over with, team President Theo Epstein is still looking for another quality arm to help balance things out.
There are several names out there that could be potential suitors — such as Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann, and former Tampa Bay Rays right-hander, David Price who entered the league under Cubs skipper Joe Maddon.
While going after one of the three names listed above would be nice, spending the type of cash that Epstein dishes out in order to acquire Lester’s services may not happen.
Remember, the Cubs still need to re-sign Jake Arrieta, so bringing in a reliable rotation guy will have to come at the right price of ‘cheaper than your typical ace’. Not only will Chicago look to add to their rotation, but bullpen improvement may be on the horizon as well.
For right now, we’ll take a look at a cheap option to follow Arrieta and Lester. And that man is the 34-year-old Japanese-born right-hander, Hisashi Iwakuma.
Iwakuma (9-5, 3.54 ERA) signed his first major league deal prior to the 2012 campaign and followed that up with a two-year, $14 million extension with the Seattle Mariners that November.
Before Seattle was involved, Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics entered the picture in 2010 by winning a bidding war but failed to sign him to a contract during the 30-day negotiating window.
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He made his debut on April 20, 2012, in a game against the Chicago White Sox working only four innings. Iwakuma held the South Siders to one earned run on one hit which was a big fly.
Since stepping on a major league mound for the first time, Iwakuma has been a solid addition to Seattle’s organization. In three years of service, he carries a 47-25 record with 551 strikeouts across 653 2/3 innings of work.
The former Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander pitched his first career shutout and no-hitter on Aug. 12 while hosting the Baltimore Orioles, becoming the fifth Mariner in franchise history to do so.
His performance that day helped him earn the American League Player of the Week honors. What’s even more impressive is that he finished third in the A.L. Cy Young race behind Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish after the 2013 campaign.
He may not chew up as many innings as the top two guys in the rotation, but he’s definitely someone the Cubs should consider picking up during the off-season.