Hisashi Iwakuma is returning to the Mariners after an interesting free agent path that included a $45 million contract with the Dodgers and a failed physical.

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In the end, Hisashi Iwakuma ended up in the place he always wanted to be.

With a smile on his face and his No. 18 jersey hanging behind him, Iwakuma’s first comments during Friday’s news conference at Safeco Field to announce his signing were spoken in English — something he’s still not completely comfortable with doing.

“Hello everyone,” he said flashing a shy smile. “The Bear is back in Seattle.”

But that return path to his only major-league team had more movement than one of his split-finger fastballs. In the past week, Iwakuma went from having an agreement on a three-year, $45 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers to being notified about concerns over a failed physical and being asked to renegotiate his deal, then to re-establishing contact with the Mariners and agreeing to a contract.

“It has been a long offseason,” Iwakuma said Friday through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I’ve obviously explored a lot through free agency. With what happened with the Dodgers, they said they wanted to renegotiate. And the Seattle Mariners were always connected with myself. I felt love, I felt passion, and I felt needed here more than any place else. That’s why I’m here today to be a part of the Seattle Mariners.”

On Thursday night in the midst of their annual Christmas party, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, with the approval of CEO Howard Lincoln, president Kevin Mather and minority ownership, finalized a deal to bring Iwakuma back on a one-year contract with vesting options for 2017 and 2018.

It was unexpected opportunity that the Mariners seized.

“Sometimes you have to get lucky,” Dipoto said. “When we were leaving the winter meetings, we were wrapping it up essentially  on the larger-scale moves as we were leaving Nashville. This one is pure and simple a gift to the organization. This is a gift to the city. This  is a gift to the fan base from our ownership. This was not part of the original plan. This was an opportunity to do the right thing, to add to our pitching staff, to bring a great guy back into the clubhouse and reunite a player who wanted to be here and should be here with a team that always wanted him.”

According to the Associated Press, Iwakuma will earn $10 million next season with a $1 million signing bonus. The vesting options start at $10 million for each season with a $1 million buyout for each year. If Iwakuma pitches more than 162 innings in a season, the option for 2017 vests at $14 million. If he totals 324 innings over the 2016-17 seasons, the option for 2018 vests at $15 million. There also is up to $2.5 million in incentives based on innings pitched after 150. It also contains a no-trade clause, eight business-class tickets between Japan and the United States and a full-time personal trainer.

The money originally budgeted for re-signing Iwakuma had been used on other players. This was an added and unexpected expense that ownership had to approve, because the Mariners are nearing their projected payroll budget for the season.

“This was about the familiarity with Kuma, the fact that he had been here and is beloved here and is trusted and we know his situation,” Dipoto said. “This was ownership. Howard, I walked in and mentioned to him that this might be a possibility and it took him 30 seconds to say he thought it was an excellent idea and let’s see what we can do.”

Of course, the unexpected circumstances that brought Iwakuma back to Seattle and this new contract force one question to be asked.

Is he healthy?

“I’m very, very, very healthy,” Iwakuma said. “They (the Dodgers) had their issues, and they said they wanted to re-negotiate, and that’s all I know.”

The timeline of Iwakuma’s strange free-agent trip began just days before the Major League Baseball winter meetings. Dipoto had made it known from the day he was hired that re-signing Iwakuma was a priority. The Mariners made a two-year, $30 million offer to Iwakuma. They asked Iwakuma’s representation — Wasserman Media Group — for an answer on the contract Friday, Dec. 4, two days before the winter meetings were to begin. Iwakuma’s representation asked for another day for Iwakuma to decide. That extra day was to weigh the offer from the Dodgers, which included an extra year of guaranteed money.

On Sunday, Dec. 6, the news broke that Iwakuma had accepted the offer from the Dodgers. Dipoto acknowledged the agreement the following day, saying the Dodgers “just came in and threw a bowling ball into the alley.”

Iwakuma agonized over the decision — the massive sum of money vs. the happiness of being in Seattle.

“It was very emotional,” Iwakuma said.  “The four years I spent in this city, and this is the organization that gave me an opportunity to play — it means a lot to me. It wasn’t every easy to make that decision.”

With Iwakuma off the table, the Mariners executed a trade immediately with the Red Sox to acquire starting pitcher Wade Miley to fill those innings, along with reliever Jonathan Aro, sending reliever Carson Smith and starter Roenis Elias to Boston in return.

“That first night in Nashville is really when we got to work on how do we back-fill, how do we fill that spot, that void left by Iwakuma,” assistant general manager Jeff Kingston said. “That’s when we got aggressive on the trade market. Obviously, we traded for Wade Miley, thinking that was filling Iwakuma’s spot.”

Because Iwakuma had not taken his physical, the Dodgers made no announcement of the signing during the meetings. He flew to Los Angeles and took a physical on Friday, Dec. 11.

Even with the physical taken, there was no announcement from the Dodgers. On Thursday morning, news that the Dodgers had concerns about the physical and had asked to renegotiate broke first in Japan, then later in the U.S.  But Iwakuma had been notified by his agent, Joel Wolfe, a day before about the concerns and had been told that re-negotiating the deal was a possibility. Dipoto was alerted of the situation by Wolfe but said “nothing was firm” at that point.

With no deal and a failed physical, Iwakuma’s future was uncertain while his perceived value on the market had taken a major hit. The likelihood of a multiyear deal with any team was fading.

“There’s nothing that I have against them,” Iwakuma said of the Dodgers. “It is what it is. It was their decision to make. I’m sure they have their own way of evaluating and assessing physical issues. I respect that. I did think that it did take a while for them to decide what they wanted to do and how they wanted to move forward with it. They told me two days ago, and the Mariners called right away. And we went really quick.”

How quick?

“Once we heard that the physical may not be passed with LA, they immediately were back in touch with us,” Kingston said.  “It was a couple days ago. It was very recent. This all went down in a 24- to 48-hour period.”

Iwakuma, who lives in Seattle in the offseason, met with Dipoto on Thursday afternoon at Safeco Field.

“We just wanted to see where we were at and see if we were on the same page,” Iwakuma said. “He felt the same way I did. I wanted to come back here, and I felt passion from him and the Mariners. We didn’t talk about physical issues. I know and he knows where I’m at physically. We’re both confident where I’m at physically.”

That confidence was a reason the  Mariners did not perform another physical on Iwakuma before signing the new contract. He had an extensive physical after the season. They felt there was no reason for another one.

“We were comfortable with it from the get go,” Dipoto said. “Kuma has been here for four years. (Trainer) Rick Griffin and our medical team led by Dr. (Edward) Khalfayan, we know Kuma’s health and history as well as anybody. It was very simple. We understood where he was going into the offseason. We have every confidence that situation has not changed, and we are comfortable moving forward.”

The Mariners had no reason to believe that the Dodgers wouldn’t have similar comfort with Iwakuma’s health. They weren’t expecting any issues.

“Yeah, certainly an element of surprise sits in there given our information and what our doctor saw and our history with the player,” Kingston said.

What the Dodgers’ medical staff saw to raise a red flag and change the overall plan is unreported. The Mariners aren’t commenting.

“I don’t know the specifics,” Kingston said. “I don’t know their exact concerns.”

And Iwakuma had nothing to say, either.

“I don’t know,” he said.  “That’s something you can ask the Dodgers.”