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Mariners sign pitcher Yusei Kikuchi

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Jon Heyman reports that the Seattle Mariners have signed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. He had been posted by his NPB team, the Seibu Lions. The deadline for him to have signed with a U.S. team was tomorrow.

Heyman says it’s a three-year contract with a player option for 2022, with the option possibly being replaced with an additional four-year guarantee. At the moment he will reportedly make $43 million over those three years.

Kikuchi has a 73-46 career record with a 2.77 ERA in NPB, going 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA this year while striking out 153 batters in 163 and two-thirds innings. The year before that he went 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA while striking out 217 batters and walking only 49 in his 187 and two-thirds.

Kikuchi is a fastball-slider pitcher some have compared to Patrick Corbin. He’s generally viewed by major league scouts as a potential mid-rotation starter.

Cubs have considered trading Ben Zobrist

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The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma reports that the Cubs have considered trading super-utilityman Ben Zobrist in order to free up payroll space, which would allow the club to address other areas of the roster.

Zobrist, 37, is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $12 million in 2019. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Cubs project to have an Opening Day payroll of about $204.5 million, just a hair below the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Cubs have notably been absent from the free agent marketplace, particularly involving Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, due to luxury tax concerns.

Last season, Zobrist hit .305/.378/.440 with nine home runs, 58 RBI, and 67 runs scored in 520 plate appearances. He played all over the field, logging 100-plus innings in both outfield corners and second base while also spending a handful of games at first base. With Addison Russell serving a 40-game suspension to open the 2019 season, Javier Báez will handle shortstop and Zobrist figures to be the starting second baseman.