Iwakuma did seem surprised by being put in the bullpen coming out of Spring Training, but readily acknowledged later that his relief role helped him transition to Major League ball and it all worked out very well with his strong second half. I don't think Ichiro's situation affects Iwakuma. He's a strong family man and I sense the most important thing for him is having a good situation for his wife and two kids, and that is a factor that weighs in Seattle's favor, along with a pitcher-friendly park that played well for him.
The Mariners won't be the only team intrigued by his 8-4 record and 2.65 ERA in 16 second-half starts, but I do think they are in good position, based on Iwakuma's comfort level with Seattle, and will make a strong push to get him back when free agency begins the day after the conclusion of the World Series.
The Dodgers are interested in Japanese free-agent reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, according to people familiar with their thinking.
A right-hander armed with a mid-90s fastball, Fujikawa has been considered the Japanese league's top closer in recent years. The 32-year-old has posted a 1.26 ERA over his last eight seasons with the Hanshin Tigers.
Fujikawa is expected to pitch in the major leagues next season. Because he is a free agent, whatever team that signs him would not have to pay a posting fee to the Tigers.