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Where EAST meets the Northwest


SEATTLE SIGNING. Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi smiles and shows off his new jersey following a news conference after his signing with the team in Seattle. Kikuchi is the latest Japanese star to decide on calling Seattle home in the majors. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

PROMISING PITCHER. Yusei Kikuchi of the Seibu Lions pitches during a game in Tokorozawa, Japan, in this September 28, 2018 photo. The Seattle Mariners signed Kikuchi to a four-year contract that guarantees $56 million and includes club options that could make it worth $109 million over seven seasons. Kikuchi was one of the few starter options remaining on the market and will join a team with a long history of success with Japanese players. (Takahiko Kanbara/Kyodo News via AP)

From The Asian Reporter, V29, #01 (January 7, 2019), pages 7 & 13.

Yusei Kikuchi finalizes $56M, 4-year contract with the Seattle Mariners

By Tim Booth

AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE — Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi has finalized a four-year contract with the Seattle Mariners that guarantees $56 million and includes club options that could make it worth $109 million over seven seasons.

Seattle announced the agreement just ahead of the deadline for the 27-year-old to sign with a major league club.

He receives a $6-million signing bonus and salaries of $8 million this year, $14 million in 2020, and $15 million in 2021. The agreement includes a $13-million player option for 2022, and Seattle has options worth $16.5 million annually for 2022-2025.

Seattle has until the third day after the 2021 World Series to exercise all four team options. If the Mariners decline, Kikuchi has until the fifth day after the 2021 World Series to exercise his player option.

"Yusei’s combination of character, talent, experience, and relative age made him a primary target in our roster-building plans," Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "He is an exciting young pitcher with the ability to impact the Mariners, both in the present and future."

Kikuchi was posted by the Pacific League’s Seibu Lions on December 4. Under the rules in the November 2017 posting agreement, he had until Wednesday, January 2 to sign with a major league team.

Seattle owes Seibu $10,275,000 as a posting fee: 20 percent of the first $25 million in guaranteed money, 17.5 percent of the next $25 million, and 15 percent above that. The Mariners would owe Seibu a supplemental fee of $7.95 million if the club options are exercised — 15 percent of the additional guaranteed money.

Kikuchi was 14-4 with a 3.08 Earned Run Average (ERA) for Seibu last season. He was 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA a year earlier. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and he has an array of off-speed pitches.

Dipoto was open at the winter meetings in Las Vegas about his interest in Kikuchi and about how a deal structured in the right way could still fit in the Mariners’ rebuilding plans. Seattle is undergoing an extensive makeover this offseason in the hopes of acquiring prospects now with an ultimate goal of being able to contend in a couple of years.

Kikuchi will turn 28 during the 2019 season. With the trade of James Paxton this offseason, Kikuchi will slot high in Seattle’s rotation alongside Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Wade LeBlanc, Felix Hernandez, and likely a couple of young prospects.

Kikuchi is the latest in a line of Japanese players to call Seattle home, a list that started with Ichiro Suzuki and also includes Kazuhiro Sasaki, Kenji Johjima, Nori Aoki, and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Seattle’s deal with Kikuchi includes a full no-trade provision through 2021. If the club options are exercised, he gets a full no-trade provision in 2022 and a limited no-trade provision allowing him to block swaps to 10 teams in 2023 and five for the rest of the agreement. He becomes a free agent when the contract expires.

He also would receive $500,000 for winning a Cy Young Award, $250,000 for finishing second through fifth, and $100,000 for Rookie of the Year. He would receive $100,000 each for World Series MVP and winning the Rivera/Hoffman reliever of the year award, and $50,000 apiece for League Championship Series MVP and Gold Glove.

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