A report surfaced out of Japan this morning that the Los Angeles Dodgers had some concerns after former Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma took his physical. You may recall, the Dodgers gave Iwakuma a three-year, $45 million deal pending said physical. Details are still a bit hazy — some say the Dodgers are backing out, while others say the door isn’t yet closed — so we’ll have to see how things shake out, and if Iwakuma hits the open market again.
There are a couple of ways you can look at this if you’re an M’s fan hoping the team can swoop back in and get Iwakuma to help strengthen their starting rotation depth.
The optimistic way to view this, is that the Mariners can now go back to Iwakuma and get him on that two-year deal they offered, perhaps now even at a reduced rate.
The realistic way to look at the situation, however, is that the Mariners — the team whose front office, training and medical staff knows him best — just had their concerns validated. While Iwakuma came to the United States on the cheap due to concerns from a past elbow injury, he stayed relatively healthy during his first two seasons in Seattle. He was eased in slowly in 2011, then had that Cy Young contending season in 2012. The finger blister thing was there, but it was something the team and player could work around.
Though 2014 was fine (more finger issues, with velo, strikeouts and walks each marginally worse), there were definitely durability concerns starting to raise. The lat injury in 2015 only furthered those, so you can understand why the Mariners would now shift from seeing Iwakuma as the steal they got initially, to the injury liability he had turned into. Teams with payroll flexibility that are facing depth issues don’t typically worsen that situation by letting one of their own walk without good reason. Those concerns are now legitimatized.
Hisashi Iwakuma my very well still hash this out with the Dodgers by moving some of the money into incentives. Or, the deal could fall apart. I don’t see the Dodgers as a team that will sit around and wait. In fact, they’re already linked to talks with the Rays about Jake Odorizzi. But that doesn’t mean he’ll come running back to the Mariners to take their offer, or that an offer will even still be there after the club shifted their focus upon his departure. The M’s presumably still have some financial wiggle room, but they have been executing their contingency plan since they thought they lost him and may not want to enter talks with someone they now know failed a physical.
Go ahead and have hope, if you like. But if you just got your hopes up about an Iwakuma return, you are likely to end up disappointed.