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Updated Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 12:16 AM

Hisashi Iwakuma stays put with two-year deal with Mariners

By Geoff Baker
Seattle Times staff reporter

A key part of the Mariners' starting rotation in 2013 was solidified Friday night when Hisashi Iwakuma re-signed with the team for two years plus an option.

Contract figures were not immediately available, but CBS Sports reported it to be worth two years, $14 million. Iwakuma, 31, ended his rookie season with a 9-5 record and 3.16 earned-run average, but went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA as a starter.

"Hisashi did a very nice job for us at the end of last season as a starting pitcher, and we are happy that we have come to a mutual agreement," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a release. "We look forward to his veteran presence and to his contributions the next few seasons."

Iwakuma had an exclusive negotiating window with the Mariners through Friday night and could have requested his release if a deal did not get done. Had that happened, he would have become a free agent.

The deal now gives the Mariners a pair of starters in Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma who are locked in through the 2014 season. Jason Vargas is arbitration eligible and is expected to sign with the Mariners — possibly in a multiyear deal — in the coming weeks.

Zduriencik said before the Iwakuma deal that he anticipates having more financial resources in 2013 than he began with for the 2012 season. The Mariners had a payroll of roughly $85 million to begin last season.

Before the Iwakuma signing, the Mariners had $41 million committed to five players for 2013, plus another $12 million or so pending payouts to arbitration-eligible players.

If the rest of the roster was rounded out with minimum MLB salaries, the team's payroll would have been right around $62 million before the Iwakuma signing — giving Zduriencik around $23 million in flexibility this winter if the team allows him to match the payroll of last season.

The Iwakuma deal will take away some of that flexibility. But the Mariners liked what he showed in the second half, and Iwakuma told the Times he wanted a multiyear deal.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com


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