No team in baseball used more starting pitchers than the Seattle Mariners in 2017. Seventeen different pitchers started a game for Seattle this year, the most since the 2006 Kansas City Royals also used 17 different starters. The last team to use more than 17 starters? The 1996 Pittsburgh Pirates. They used 18.
Understandably, the Mariners are focused on adding rotation depth this offseason, and on Monday the team announced they have brought back veteran hurler Hisashi Iwakuma on a minor-league contract.
Iwakuma, who will turn 37 shortly after Opening Day, made only six starts for Seattle this season before going down with a shoulder injury. He underwent shoulder debridement surgery in September and is expected to resume throwing in March, meaning he is unlikely to be in the Opening Day rotation. Iwakuma is more of a midseason addition.
In parts of six seasons with the Mariners, Iwakuma has gone 63-39 with a 3.42 (112 ERA+) in 883 2/3 innings. That includes a 3.17 ERA (117 ERA+) in 528 1/3 innings from 2013-15. Iwakuma finished third in the 2013 AL Cy Young voting, though injuries have limited him to only 59 starts in the last three seasons. Iwakuma played 11 seasons in Japan, mostly with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, before coming to MLB.
As things stand, Seattle's rotation depth chart currently looks something like this:
- Felix Hernandez
- James Paxton
- Mike Leake
- Erasmo Ramirez
- Marco Gonzales
- Ariel Miranda
- Drew Smyly (will miss most of 2018 with Tommy John surgery)
- Hisashi Iwakuma (rehabbing from shoulder surgery)
- Andrew Moore
- Andrew Albers
Felix is no longer the pitcher he was in his prime, and as good as he is, Paxton is no stranger to the disabled list. Even with Iwakuma back in the fold, the Mariners figure to continue to be aggressive in their search for rotation help this winter. They don't want to have to use 17 different starters again in 2018.