Even as they rebuild, it always made sense for the Mariners to go after Japanese free agent Yusei Kikuchi because of his age (27) and the frequent preference for Japanese free agents to sign on the West Coast. That’s especially true because the variability in outcomes for Kikuchi, based on scouting reports and projections, range from a front three starter to a back-end meh arm. Get him in the door as a rebuilding club, see what you have, and then proceed in the coming years.
So, it’s the Mariners that land Kikuchi, and on a very, very unique contract:
Yusei Kikuchi’s novel deal with the Mariners, source tells ESPN: three years and $43M, at which point the Mariners can trigger a four-year, $66M extension. If they don’t, Kikuchi can either opt into free agency or accept fourth-year option at $13M. @JonHeyman had details first.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 1, 2019
Got all that? So it’s a three-year deal, at which point the Mariners first have an option for another four-year, $66 million deal. If that’s declined, Kikuchi has a one-year, $13 million player option. So he’s guaranteed at least $56 million over four years, making the AAV of his deal $14 million.
Increasingly, as teams want shorter deals and free agents still want the guarantee of life-changing money, you’re going to see more and more creative contracts like this (Jake Arrieta’s and JD Martinez’s deals were unique in similar ways last year, for example).
I wonder if this decision will spur along the pitching trade market, given that the Padres – for one example – have frequently been mentioned as suitors for guys like Sonny Gray, but were also in on Kikuchi. And if this does move that market, that could impact the Cubs indirectly, since the Brewers are also in the starting pitcher trade market.