The future of Hisashi Iwakuma is up for debate, and there seems to be two schools of thought at work here.
Earlier this week, Brent Stecker over at MyNorthwest.com cobbled together the thoughts of USS Mariner's Dave Cameron and ESPN baseball analyst Jim Bowden, who both believe that trading Iwakuma could be the right move for the M's.
From a long-term perspective, Cameron questions the wisdom of whether the M's can keep him by stating:
I don't know if I see the organization wanting to give Iwakuma the kind of money he is going to get in a couple of years. Are the Mariners going to want to be in a position where they are signing Iwakuma to a long-term deal with the young pitching coming?
Meanwhile, Sean Quinton at the Seattlepi.com wants to keep Iwakuma and counters Cameron by offering his passionate plea:
Simply put, game-changing talent is difficult to find in baseball. And though sometimes it makes sense for teams to maximize resources by trading proven talent for prospects, the Mariners have been playing that game for far too long.
With more illustrious pitching prospects on the way to Seattle, now isn’t the time to wholesale a proven arm. If guys like Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton live up to their hype, the Mariners have a chance to begin adding without subtracting. It’s their best chance to win now.
“Iwakuma’s gonna give you a better shot to win than anything you’re going to be able to get back in return, at least for the next couple of years,” baseball analyst Jim Bowden told 710 ESPN Seattle last week. “Keep an open mind, but I also think Iwakuma can be a very helpful part of this team making the playoffs over the next couple of years.”
If forced to pick a side for the moment, I'm inclined to take a seat on the fence with Bowden given the fact that Iwakuma has looked quite solid thus far, and I think it is a bit premature to start packing his bags.
Of course, that's easier said that done for M's general manager Jack Zduriencik, who I'd imagine will start to get phone calls in the coming weeks for Iwakuma, especially if the team continues to struggle.
So what should Jack Z do in the meantime?
First, I'd talk to Iwakuma.
Make sure that after committing himself to the organization—not once, but twice in two years after having moved all the way from Japan—he along with his family is comfortable with the team trading him.
Perhaps it seems ridiculous on some levels to grant Iwakuma that courtesy, but it would be the proper thing to do. Keep in mind that Iwakuma had a comfortable life/career in Japan prior to arriving in Seattle. Having given that life up to take a chance and play in the US is no small move, hence the reason I was willing to give him a pass for the better part of last season as he adjusted to life both on and off the field.
Fortunately for the Mariners, their patience has paid off and what we are seeing now from Iwakuma is downright amazing.
Meanwhile, if he is open to making the move, then step two is simple—Jack Z goes out and gets a legitimate hitter, preferably an outfielder, in return.
If not, I'd prefer the M's keep Iwakuma for at least another year rather than end up with another Casper Wells or Eric Thames to take up space on the 40-man roster.
My guess is that unless those two points are properly addressed, Iwakuma will likely be staying in Seattle.