Yusei Kikuchi and the Seattle Mariners will part ways after the left-handed pitcher declined his one-year, $13 million player option to become a free agent, the team said Wednesday.
The 30-year-old had a contract that included both the player option and a series of four one-year team options from 2022 to 2025 valued at $66 million. He chose to test free agency after the team declined to exercise its option.
Kikuchi joined the Mariners in 2019 following a stellar eight-year career in Japan with the Seibu Lions, but struggled to reach similar heights in Seattle. He went 15-24 with a 4.97 ERA in 70 starts over three big-league seasons.
Kikuchi earned his first All-Star selection this summer. He had a strong first half of the season, but faded over the final months. He finished 2021 with a 7-9 record and a 4.41 ERA in 29 starts.
"It's possible that after finishing 2021 on a down note, having lost his rotation spot during the final week, he could be motivated to return to his homeland following three seasons in the majors," one writer speculated on MLB.com.
Elsewhere, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo also elected to enter free agency.