The LA Times is reporting today that the Seattle Mariners have signed former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo to a one year deal. Terms weren’t immediately disclosed, but Kuo was hunting somewhere in the neighborhood of one million dollars. Kuo made $2.725 million with the Dodgers last season.
When healthy, Kuo can be one of the best relievers in baseball. In 2008, he threw 80 innings of 2.14 ERA ball, striking out 96 and walking 21 to amass 2.2 fWAR. He was injured and ineffective in 2009 before reverting to his dominant form in 2010, pitching 60 innings of 1.20 ERA ball with 73 strikeouts, 18 walks, and 2.2 fWAR again. But then in 2011, he was injured and ineffective again.
Thie past October, Kuo underwent his mind-boggling fifth elbow surgery at age 30, including two Tommy John surgeries. In addition to the elbow problems, this fantastic story by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs details Kuo’s battles with his constant injuries, as well as his battles with “Steve Blass disease” that’s plagued with ability to throw strikes at times. In that story about Kuo, Sarris produces a list of players that have had two Tommy John surgeries, the highest profile of whom is former Reds ace Jose Rijo (who had the surgery four times…which is insane).
If Kuo is indeed healthy and mentally ready for the majors this season, he has the potential to be a dominant reliever for Seattle in front of Brandon League that the team could possibly deal in July for a prospect. If he’s not ready to go, it’s not as if this is a multi-year, massive financial investment for the team.