Why this market may be the key to improvement for Seattle in 2024
Since the signing of Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, Seattle has been a hot destination for Japanese free agents. What does recent history tell us about this path to improvement for the Mariners?
Since the signings of Kaz Sasaki in 2000 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, Seattle has been a popular destination for Japanese free agents looking to make their way to the United States. Following the Ichiro signing Seattle has added several NPB players that have made an impact over the years.
This particular market is filled with overseas talent, specifically from Japan. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Shōta Imanaga, Yuki Matsui, and Yariel Rodriguez are all talented arms that are expected to hit the open market this winter. Shohei Ohtani is another Japanese talent available this winter, although he spent the last 6 years dazzling fans in the United States.
The talent isn’t just from the NPB. Jung Hoo Lee is expected to be a fantastic big-league player and will enter the market from the KBO. Many have said he is better than Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim at his time of arrival in the major leagues.
You can see my scouting reports and analysis on each of the players in my free agency guide, available here.
It is really difficult to project production overseas to the United States, as there is really no way to compare the competition levels. Because of this, the salaries are typically a little lower than what MLB free agents with similar profiles will receive on the open market.
Recent history tells us the Mariners see a lot of value in this market. They signed Yusei Kikuchi in 2019 and had intense interest in Shohei Ohtani earlier that offseason. Seattle was reportedly the runner-up in the Ohtani sweepstakes, something I mentioned in my piece on Sunday night.