Mariners sign Yusei Kikuchi
There was no Shohei Ohtani coming over from Japan in free agency this winter — Ohtani was, of course, a once-in-a-generation free agent — but left-handed starter Yusei Kikuchi is a solid free agent in his own right. Not many see ace potential for the southpaw like some other recent Japanese pitchers to be posted and signed to big-money deals, but in a somewhat weak starting pitching class Kikuchi was one of the best starters available this winter. He was officially posted back in early December, and he has now officially signed. The southpaw signed an interesting contract with three guaranteed years with the Mariners.
First, the contract. As mentioned, there are three years guaranteed in this deal for the 27-year-old (he’ll be 28 in June) and they are worth $43 million. After those years are up, the Mariners have the choice to tack on four more years worth another $66 million. If they decline to do so, then Kikuchi can then decide to add one more year after the initial three worth $13 million. It’s a unique structuring, but it makes sense for both sides. As for the fit itself, it was a little surprising to see one of the top starters on the market go to a team that has somewhat famously been rebuilding this winter, but Seattle doesn’t want this to be a long rebuild and they now have a starter who they think can be good for long enough to be part of their next good team. In terms of affect on the Red Sox, they were never a realistic landing spot after Nathan Eovaldi re-signed with Boston, so Kikuchi going to a rebuilding team can only help in the short-term.
Yankees sign Troy Tulowitzki
The big rumor surrounding Boston’s biggest rival has, of course, been that they will eventually sign Manny Machado. This has been speculated for over a year now, and the injury that will keep shortstop Didi Gregorius out for at least half of 2019 only made the speculation stronger. However, on New Year’s Day the Yankees went out and signed another big name that plays the infield. According to reports, New York has agreed to a one-year deal worth the league minimum salary with Troy Tulowitzki. The former top shortstop in the game was released by the Blue Jays earlier this winter with money still remaining on his deal, meaning any team to sign him would only have t pay the minimum. Tulowitzki is clearly not the player he used to be, and he posted a wRC+ of just 76 in 2018. Injuries have also famously marred his career in recent seasons. Given his propensity for injury, his downturn in production and his low salary, it would be silly to think this deal will have any bearing on whether or not the Yankees would still sign Machado. Instead, it gives them another backup option if they don’t and more depth on the bench if they do.