Before I headed off to bed on Thursday night I was thinking about my next blog entry. It seemed we were heading into the holiday week quiet period, that Jerry DiPoto exhausted the budget, had really shaped the roster to the extent his assets-cash and tradeable surplus allowed. It seemed like topics for discussion would be my IBWAA Hall of Fame vote, or maybe some links to other great stories. Jeff Sullivan’s super article about Tony Zych as a secret weapon, or Tony Blengino‘s assessment of DiPoto’s turnover of the Mariner roster.
Of course, there was also the business floated about Hisashi Iwakuma failing his physical with the Dodgers and renegotiating the terms of their deal. I was confident the Dodgers would get this done, because Clayton Kershaw simply can’t pitch all 162 games.
I had this niggling hope deep in the back of mind, or maybe way deep in my soul that the M’s might do the right thing and try to lure ‘Kuma back into the fold, but I was also realistic that the budget was likely expended and that was the name of that tune.
I trotted off to bed at about 9:15 (because I usually wake up at about 4:15) and that I, thought was that.
But when I woke up super early and opened my iPad there it was for me to see. Mariner sign Iwakuma to one year deal with vesting options for 2017 and 2018. I was shocked, in a very pleasant way. I quickly walked the three dogs in the dark and the rain, thinking all the time about what it meant. Later in the day, Iwakuma’s press conference coincided with my lunch period and I managed to listen. I followed MLBTR all day hoping for details. I wanted to devour everything Iwakuma.
This changes everything. It was like receiving my first, totally unexpected, Christmas gift of the year. And something I really, really wanted but never even hoped I would receive. That coupled with winter break-whew, what more could I ask for.
In my view, the Mariners go from having an incredibly thin starting rotation to having maybe the strongest in their division. If the M’s can avoid major injury, this is a team that could compete for a playoff spot if things break right. Still a lot of unknowns on this team, still a lot of bounce-backs required. But the pitching goes from Felix, Miley and three question marks to Felix, Miley, Iwakuma and only two sets of fingers crossed. And we’ve seen glimpses of at least very good from Tai Walker, and that puts the M’s in a much better place.
Nathan Bishop at Lookout Landing has a nice look at the statistical impact of the signing. And he’s right there are no guarantees, things will have to go their way-players will have to produce, avoid injury and not slump out of the gate for the M’s to win big. But that is what the off-season is about, isn’t it? If bringing back ‘Kuma is his last play, together with additional minor league deals, Jerry DiPoto has done a remarkable job turning over the roster with the resources he’s been given, and he deserves credit for fostering a sense of optimism. And kudos too to Kevin Mather and the ownership team for recognizing the clock is ticking on the expiration date for this team, and ponying up a bit more cash to make this deal happen.
I think it’s safe to buckle our seat belts and let the ride begin.