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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.

Aaron Hicks would like to avoid Tommy John surgery

Aaron Hicks
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The Yankees’ 2019 run ended in heartbreak on Saturday night when, despite a stunning ninth-inning comeback, they fell 6-4 to the Astros and officially lost their bid for the AL pennant. Now, facing a long offseason, there are a few decisions to be made.

One of those falls on the shoulders of outfielder Aaron Hicks, who told reporters that he “thinks he can continue playing without Tommy John surgery.” It’s unclear whose recommendation he’s basing that decision on, however, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch points out that Tommy John surgery was recommended during the slugger’s most recent meeting with Dr. Neal ELAttrache.

Hicks originally sustained a season-ending right flexor strain in early August and held several consultations with ElAttrache and the Yankees’ physician in the months that followed. He spent two and a half months on the 60-day injured list and finally returned to the Yankees’ roster during the ALCS, in which he went 2-for-13 with a base hit and a Game 5 three-run homer against the Astros.

Of course, a handful of strong performances doesn’t definitively prove that the outfielder is fully healed — or that he’ll be able to avoid aggravating the injury with further activity. Granted, Tommy John surgery isn’t a minor procedure; it’s one that requires up to a year of rest and rehabilitation before most players are cleared to throw again. Should Hicks wait to reverse his decision until he reports for spring training in 2020, though, it could push his return date out by another six months or so.