2015 Statistics: 129.2 IP, 3.54 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 7.70 K/9, 1.46 BB/9, 1.06 WHIP
2016 Age: 35
Position: Right-handed starting pitcher
Hisashi Iwakuma made his professional baseball debut in Japan in 2001 with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He averaged a 3.67 ERA through four seasons there, before joining the Rakuten Golden Eagles, where he spent the next seven years of his career. Although he was posted in 2010 and the Oakland Athletics won the rights to negotiate with him, Iwakuma was unable to reach an agreement with the team and ended up staying Japan for another year. Following the 2011 season, Iwakuma signed with the Seattle Mariners and spent part of the 2012 season working out of the bullpen before he found a spot in the rotation. When the season ended, the team negotiated a two-year contract extension worth $14 million with a 2015 option worth $7 million that was ultimately picked up. Should the Yankees pursue Iwakuma now that he's a free agent?
Iwakuma's 2015 season got off to a poor start as he gave up four runs in each of his first three starts before being placed on the disabled list. He suffered from a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle (lat muscle) and did not return to the Mariners until just before the All-Star break in early July. When he finally got healthy, Iwakuma pitched at a high level for the rest of the season, and he even threw his first no-hitter and complete game in August. Through his final 17 starts of the season, he gave up more than three runs on just three occasions. Iwakuma is not known for his velocity (his fastball averaged just 88.9 mph this season), but he has a wide range of pitches to choose from (four-seamer, splitter, slider, sinker) and he tends to use them just about equally. His walk and strikeout rates have remained consistent over the past few years, but his 13.8% HR/FB ratio is somewhat concerning since he's had the benefit of pitching in Safeco Field, which tends to be more pitcher-friendly than it is hitter-friendly.
The Mariners are rumored to be interested in re-signing Iwakuma to a two-year deal in the range of $24 million, but MLB Trade Rumors has predicted that he could end up with as much as a three-year contract worth upwards of $40 million. Since the Mariners offered Iwakuma a qualifying offer, the Yankees would have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him. Brian Cashman has already stated that he'd like to hold onto the Yankees' draft pick if possible, so it is difficult to imagine the Yankees' giving up a draft pick to sign one of the lower-tier free agents such as Iwakuma. The Yankees would benefit from adding another starting pitcher to the rotation, but it doesn't seem like it would be worth it to sign Iwakuma unless they already lost the draft pick by signing someone else.
Do you think the Yankees should be interested in Iwakuma?