According to a Sponichi report, Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is leaning toward signing with the Mariners. The story was passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker and the following translated quote from Iwakuma was published on MLB Trade Rumors.
“We’ve received terms from a number of clubs, but considering where I’m needed and an environment my family can live in, at present we’re closest to a contract with the Mariners,” Iwakuma said.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reported yesterday that the Orioles are also interested in Iwakuma. Per a previous report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, it’s believed that another American League team could be in the mix.
The Athletics won exclusive negotiating rights with Iwakuma last offseason by submitting a $19.1 million posting fee, but the two sides failed to agree on a contract. For what it’s worth, it was reported that the Mariners did not submit a bid for him last year. However, they are very much interested now that he’s available as a free agent.
Iwakuma, who turns 31 in April, posted a 2.42 ERA and 90/19 K/BB ratio in 119 innings this past year for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s Pacific League. He has a 3.25 ERA during his 11-year career.
Free agent right-hander Chris Tillman is narrowing his pool of potential suitors, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Returning to the Orioles is one option, of course, but Heyman also mentions another two undisclosed teams who are still in the running. An earlier report from Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggests that as many as four teams may be in the mix; either way, a final decision is expected by Monday.
Tillman, 29, has spent the entirety of his major league career in Baltimore. After posting career-high numbers in 2016, his progress was derailed during an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, during which he missed nearly six weeks on the disabled list with recurring right shoulder inflammation. He finished the season with a bloated 7.84 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 4.9 SO/9 over 93 innings.
While the mystery teams have yet to reveal themselves, the Blue Jays, Twins and Tigers have all expressed interest in the veteran right-hander this offseason. Both the Blue Jays and Twins have made big moves to bolster their rotations over the last few days, with the additions of Jaime Garcia and Jake Odorizzi, respectively. That doesn’t mean that Tillman is out of reach, however — if his price is right, he could provide some much-needed depth for pitching staffs that finished 15th and 22nd in the league last year.