Mariners land Japanese left-hander Kikuchi

Japanese baseball player Yusei Kikuchi speaks to journalists before he leaves for the United States at Narita international airport in Narita near Tokyo. The Seattle Mariners have signed Kikuchi to a four-year deal on Wedne

Japanese baseball player Yusei Kikuchi speaks to journalists before he leaves for the United States at Narita international airport in Narita near Tokyo. The Seattle Mariners have signed Kikuchi to a four-year deal on Wedne

The Seattle Mariners on Wednesday announced the signing of Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, delivering a 2019 surprise for a team that has traded a number of foundational pieces already this winter.

After the 2021 season, the Mariners can extend the deal with a four-year, $66 million option. If they decline to do so, Kikuchi either can trigger a $13 million option for the 2022 season or elect free agency. Kikuchi is a 27-year old left-handed starting pitcher from the Japanese Nippon League where he plays for the Seibu Lions.

For the Mariners, this is likely a smart, low-priced move to appease a fan base already reeling after the decision to trade James Paxton, Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz this offseason. Kikuchi's pitch repertoire features a mid-90s fastball and a good slider and Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto says his stuff speaks for itself, and he wants to make him apart of the Mariners rebuild.

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Under new Major League Baseball rules, Kikuchi's former club, the Seibu Lions, will receive a percentage of Kikuchi's new contract, which would be sizable. His most recent NPB season saw Kikuchi post a 3.08 ERA with 153 strikeouts and 45 walks in 163 2/3 innings. This is a move to build the Mariners back up now in order to compete in a couple to a few years, not a move for a more lengthy rebuild that could take five to seven years.

Japanese pitching star Yusei Kikuchi has found his home in Major League Baseball (AP). Marco Gonzales, Félix Hernández and Mike Leake should complete that rotation, although the Mariners have shown interest in trading Leake, who has two years and $36 million remaining on his contract.

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