Report: Japanese Star Yusei Kikuchi Agrees to Contract with Mariners

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2019

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17:  Yusei Kikuchi pitcher for the Aces in action during the Australian Baseball League match between the Melbourne Aces and the Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Showgrounds on November 17, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Japanese pitching sensation Yusei Kikuchi is coming to Major League Baseball after reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Seattle Mariners, according to Fancred's Jon Heyman

Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported the deal is for four years. On Tuesday, Heyman reported the deal is worth $14 million a year, and has an opt out after three. It also has the ability for the Mariners to extend the deal to be a seven-year contract worth $109 million. 

The 27-year-old spent his entire career with the Seibu Lions of the Pacific League prior to coming to terms with Seattle. The left-hander had a 2.81 ERA with 925 strikeouts, 1.177 WHIP and 838 hits allowed over 1,035.1 innings in 163 appearances since 2011. 

The Lions posted Kikuchi for MLB teams to make a bid on Dec. 3. He figured to generate significant interest because of his age, high level of performance in Japan's premier baseball league and a strong scouting report. 

"The makings of a quality major-league starter are there," wrote The Athletic's Dennis Lin. "Kikuchi's fastball is consistently in the mid-90s. His curveball, slider and splitter all rate as average or slightly better. 'He is a good one,' one scout wrote in a text. 'Has not been real durable, but stuff is solid.'"

The durability question is a significant one for Kikuchi to answer when he arrives in MLB. His season-high in innings pitched is 187.2 in 2017, and he's only surpassed 150 innings twice. 

Per Morosihe missed time last season with stiffness in his throwing shoulder. 

Even with the potential injury concerns, left-handed starters who can throw in the mid-90s with three off-speed pitches are hard to find on the open market. 

Kikuchi will have the unfortunate timing of following Shohei Ohtani as the most high-profile Japanese player to be posted to MLB, but his talent speaks well for him being able to carve out a significant role in 2019. 

The Mariners appear to be in rebuild mode, as they have stripped down their roster this offseason in a way that is reminiscent of what the Miami Marlins did last offseason.

Seattle has already traded starting pitcher James Paxton, closer Edwin Diaz, second baseman Robinson Cano and shortstop Jean Segura.

The Paxton trade left the Mariners without a true ace, but Kikuchi will likely be looked upon to fill that role as part of a Mariners pitching staff that has no shortage of question marks.

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