Yusei Kikuchi finalizes $50M, 4-year contract with Mariners
Deal comes a day before left-hander would have been ineligible to play in MLB this season
Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has finalized four-year contract with the Seattle Mariners that guarantees $50 million and incudes club options that would be make it worth $103 million over seven seasons.
Seattle announced the agreement Wednesday, just ahead of the deadline for the 27-year-old to sign with a major league club or be forced to return to Japan for another season.
He receives salaries of $8 million this year, $14 million in 2020 and $15 million in 2021, and the agreement includes a $13 million player option for 2022. Seattle has options worth $16.5 million annually for 2002-25.
Seattle has until the third day after the 2021 World Series to exercise all four team options. If the Mariners decline, Kikuchi has until the fifth day after the 2021 World Series to exercise his player option.
"Yusei's combination of character, talent, experience and relative age made him a primary target in our roster building plans," Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "He is an exciting young pitcher with the ability to impact the Mariners, both in the present and future."
Kikuchi was posted by the Pacific League's Seibu Lions on Dec. 4. Under the rules in the November 2017 posting agreement, he had until Wednesday afternoon Seattle time to sign with a major league team.
Kikuchi was 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA for Seibu last season. He was 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA a year earlier. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and he has an array of off-speed pitches.
Dipoto was open at the winter meetings in Las Vegas about his interest in Kikuchi and about how a deal structured in the right way could still fit in the Mariners' rebuilding plans. Seattle is undergoing an extensive makeover this off-season in the hopes of acquiring prospects now with an ultimate goal of being able to contend in a couple of years.
Kikuchi will turn 28 during the 2019 season. With the trade of James Paxton this off-season, Kikuchi will slot high in Seattle's rotation alongside Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Wade LeBlanc, Felix Hernandez and likely a couple of young prospects.
Kikuchi is the latest in a line of Japanese players to call Seattle home, a list that started with Ichiro Suzuki and also includes Kazuhiro Sasaki, Kenji Johjima, Nori Aoki and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Seattle's deal with Kikuchi includes a full no-trade provision through 2021. If the club options are exercised, he gets a full no-trade provision in 2022 and a limited no-trade provision allowing him to block swaps to 10 teams in 2023 and five for the rest of the agreement. He becomes a free agent when the contract expires.
He also would get $500,000 for winning a Cy Young Award, $250,000 for finishing second through fifth and $100,000 for Rookie of the Year. He would get $100,000 each for World Series MVP and winning the Rivera/Hoffman reliever of the year award, and $50,000 apiece for League Championship Series MVP and Gold Glove.