Hisashi Iwakuma Rumors
2:28pm: The Orioles are in on Iwakuma, MLBTR has learned. New GM Dan Duquette has been active internationally, signing Tsuyoshi Wada and showing interest in Wei-Yin Chen, Yoenis Cespedes, and Chong Tae-Hyon.
The Mariners rumor has been kicking around in Japanese reports since Friday. A week ago, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that four teams inquired on Iwakuma, with the Athletics in that mix but with "lukewarm" interest. Iwakuma may have been on the Twins' radar, though they added Jason Marquis in late December. Both teams bid on him in 2010 via the posting process. The A's won with a $19.1MM bid, but could not work out a contract with Iwakuma.
Iwakuma, a member of the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2011, posted a 2.42 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, and 0.45 HR/9 in 119 innings, battling a shoulder injury.
MONDAY: Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics are "lukewarm" on Iwakuma, but there are two teams with "viable" interest in the right-hander. Oakland is not one of them, however.
SUNDAY: There are four teams talking to free agent Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, according to Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter). The Athletics, who won the bidding on Iwakuma last winter but couldn't work out a contract, are one of the four, says Stiglich.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles posted Iwakuma a year ago, but ultimately re-signed him after the righty was unable to agree to a deal with the A's. Oakland bid about $19.1MM for the right to exclusively negotiate with Iwakuma, but were reluctant to commit the type of salary the pitcher was seeking on top of the posting fee.
Iwakuma has now reached free agency, so the Sosnick-Cobbe client can sign a contract with any MLB club. Besides the A's, the Twins may be one of the four clubs involved. They placed second in the Iwakuma bidding last year, and were said to have him on their radar last month. Perhaps the Orioles are in as well -- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun wrote this week that Dan Duquette is "exceptionally well-versed in international players," and the O's have targeted arms such as Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chin since the new GM's arrival.
A "tense three-week period that will shape [baseball's] landscape for the following year" begins today, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. His latest:
- Agent Scott Boras has pared down Prince Fielder's sales pitch binder but still has 70 pages worth, he tells Morosi. Morosi says Fielder's suitors are believed to be the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers, and Mariners.
- The Cubs are open to moving Randy Wells, indicates Morosi as he lists available starting pitchers. Wells, 29, is under team control through 2014. MLBTR projects him to earn $2.2MM in 2012.
- The Angels and Orioles discussed the possibility of a Jeremy Guthrie trade in recent days. Guthrie, 33 in April, projects to earn $8.3MM in 2012 before hitting free agency.
- Japanese players including righty Hisashi Iwakuma, lefties Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen, and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka can begotiate with MLB teams after free agency in Japan begins Thursday. The Yakult Swallows intend to post outfielder Norichika Aoki after the Winter Meetings, adds Morosi.
The Twins replaced general manager Bill Smith today, announcing that longtime GM Terry Ryan will run the team once again -- at least for the interim. Here’s more on the Twins' front office, plus some hints about the composition of the 2012 roster:
- Ryan said he anticipates a payroll of roughly $100MM next year, according to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter links).
- Ryan confirmed that former Reds GM and Twins assistant GM Wayne Krivsky will join Minnesota’s front office, according to Bollinger.
- Hisashi Iwakuma, the Japanese right-hander who nearly signed with the Athletics last offseason, is on the Twins’ radar, according to Bollinger. Minnesota bid on the 30-year-old a year ago, but Oakland earned his rights through the posting system. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes placed Iwakuma 22nd on his list of top free agents, ahead of Kelly Johnson, Josh Willingham and many others. Tim’s predicted destination for Iwakuma: the Twins.
- Ryan said he won't make any changes to the team's coaching staff unless manager Ron Gardenhire wants to bring in different people, according to Phil Mackey of ESPN 1500 (on Twitter).
- For a detailed look at the challenges the Twins face this winter, here's my offseason outlook piece.
A grab-bag of links on the first Sunday of what should be a fun offseason....
- Don't expect the White Sox to pick up any big-ticket players on the free agent market, writes MLB.com's Scott Merkin. The club is unlikely to bring Juan Pierre back in 2012 and if they look to replace him with a traditional leadoff type, Merkin expects the team to do so via trade.
- It would be a surprise if the Indians re-signed Chad Durbin as the club has several promising young relievers who could take his spot, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.
- The Yankees will make a contract offer to C.C. Sabathia this weekend, tweets SI.com's Jon Heyman. However, most people expect the lefty to opt out of his current deal and "look around."
- Newsday's Ken Davidoff predicts destinations and contract details for his top 30 free agents, in slideshow form.
- The Rangers, Nationals, and Brewers top Buster Olney's list of potential landing spots for Grady Sizemore (ESPN insider link).
- Hisashi Iwakuma confirmed that he will attempt to sign with an MLB team again this winter, according to NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman (via Sponichi). Iwakuma was unable to work out a deal with the Athletics last offseason.
- New Angels GM Jerry Dipoto will have complete decision-making power, says Angels owner Arte Moreno. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has details and quotes.
- The Padres will hire Phil Plantier as their new hitting coach, tweets FOX's Ken Rosenthal.
Twins owner Jim Pohlad spoke to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the future of the team. A few highlights:
- Smith blames the Twins' disastrous 2011 season on "the perfect storm of injuries" as well as players failing to match their 2010 performances. He also admitted there were fundamental issues with players called up from the minors.
- Manager Ron Gardenhire and GM Bill Smith will be back in 2012, with Pohlad noting that the Twins are not a "knee-jerk reaction organization."
- Told about the potential $40MM+ the Twins have coming off the books, Pohlad said, "Well if what you just said, if that's true, that gives us tons of flexibility." The owner also said, "My guess is we're probably going to have to do more than one impact player."
- Pohlad was noncommittal on bringing back Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and gave a non-answer regarding the team renewing their interest in Hisashi Iwakuma. Said Pohlad, "I think probably everybody is on our radar."
- Pohlad says the team's $115MM payroll is "going to come down naturally" but it won't be slashed and will be "right up there."
- Based on our arbitration estimates, a $105MM payroll could give the Twins about $30MM to spend in 2012 salaries.
Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma hired Paul Cobbe of Sosnick-Cobbe Sports as his new agent several months ago, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Iwakuma, who will be a free agent after the season, intends to make another attempt to join an MLB club this winter. You can keep track of all the representation changes with MLBTR's Agency Database.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles posted Iwakuma last year, with the Athletics winning the right to negotiate with him for a reported $19.1MM. The team has been through tough times since having to return that posting fee after talks with the A's broke down. The Eagles are from Sendai, a city that was ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March.
Iwakuma's former agent, Don Nomura, said after talks broke off that the A's "never showed any respect" toward his client. He took a jab at the team on Twitter as well, calling their pursuit of Adrian Beltre "just a PR" move. Nomura wanted $12MM a year, while the A's were thinking $3-5MM per year given the commitment they made on the posting fee. The situation was considered an embarrassment for Rakuten and cost Nomura the client.
Crasnick notes that Iwakuma battled a shoulder injury this year. If that's behind him, there's a case to be made that he'll be one of the five best starting pitchers on the free agent market this winter, perhaps commanding three or four years at a salary approaching $10MM per. This year Iwakuma has a 1.67 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 0.33 HR/9 in 54 innings. He'll turn 31 in April.
Sosnick-Cobbe also represents Darrell Rasner and Randy Messenger, a couple of American-born pitchers who have sub-3.00 ERAs this year in Japan. I spoke to Sosnick today about the agency's efforts in Japan, and he told me, "We opened an office in Tokyo that we think will serve our Japanese and American clients well. The fact that Paul Cobbe speaks some Japanese has been a huge advantage for us."
Links for Monday as the Indians and Pirates claim sole possession of first place in their respective divisions...
- Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker previews the NPB players who may be available to Major League teams after the season, including starter Hisashi Iwakuma and former big leaguer Matt Murton.
- The Hiroshima Carp signed Brian Barton, according to a report on Sanspo. The 30-year-old infielder has experience with three MLB teams and last played in the big leagues for last year's Marlins team.
- The agent for Alex Cintron told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that his client is looking to un-retire and play in the Major Leagues again (Twitter link).
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said on 1500 ESPN's "Sunday Morning SportsTalk" show that Minnesota would like to add a middle reliever and may go outside of the organization for help. Tom Pelissero has the details on the Twins, who started the day just five games out of first place.
- White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen told Brett Ballantini of CSNChicago.com that he and GM Kenny Williams want to re-sign Mark Buehrle after the season, when the left-hander is eligible for free agency. The White Sox have not discussed years or money with Buehrle, who has hinted at retirement in the past. Buehrle allowed two earned runs in seven innings as the White Sox beat the Royals tonight.
On this date in 2009, the Nationals fired manager Manny Acta and replaced him with Jim Riggleman. A lot has changed in two years - Riggleman resigned as the Nationals' skipper over a contract dispute last month and Acta, now the Indians' manager, is a leading candidate for AL Manager of the Year. Here's the latest from around MLB...
- The Rays, Indians, Astros and Angels scouted Hisashi Iwakuma's recent rehab start, according to a Sponichi report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 2.72 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 from 2007-10 in Japan.
- Jim Callis of Baseball America explains the give and take between the commissioner's office and the players' union when it comes to the double standard between draft-eligible amateurs and international free agents.
- One NL executive told ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick that we should expect an intense week leading up to the trade deadline, since teams will wait until the last possible moment before becoming ‘sellers.’
- GM Jack Zduriencik told Greg Johns of MLB.com that he has discussed possible moves, but doesn’t want to get caught up in whether the Mariners will be buyers or a sellers this summer.
A's GM Billy Beane appeared on the "Athletics After Dark" podcast to discuss his team's winter moves, including a few that weren't made. Here are some of the highlights...
On his overall satisfaction with Oakland's offseason...
- "It was probably the busiest offseason we've all had since I've been here and we think it's very, very productive."
- "When it's all said and done we're very pleased with how the winter shaped up. We improved the offense which we set out to do, and we did it without taking away from a very good defensive team that we had last year. We were able to improve the pitching which I don't think was necessarily something we set out to do other than maybe looking at the fifth starter spot....While we did need to address the offense, the pitchers that were available were going to help us give up less runs, so in turn we wouldn't have to score as many runs, which is a non-linear way of approaching the issue."
- "We're always optimistic and I think we're also realistic, too. Quite frankly, I've got a very, very good relationship with [Scott Boras] and I really enjoy dealing with him. He's probably one of the best, if not the best, representatives out there."
- "Scott was honest with us from the outset of the winter about what he wanted. It took a while, but [he] ultimately achieved that, and that was beyond our means. I had no problem with the way the thing played out except for the fact that [Beltre] went to one of our rivals and I think significantly improved [the Rangers]."
- "Usually you go into the free agent period thinking a player might cost you a certain amount, and in many and most cases, it ends up being more than what you thought it was originally going to be."
- "Ultimately they're trying to do what serves their clients best, and in some cases, if it means finding ways to extract more compensation, that's part of the deal....I don't have a problem with that, and I don't think at any point during the process they were disingenuous with us."
- Beane pointed out that Iwokuma was only a year away from free agency, which is unusual since most Japanese players who gets posted are years away from free agency.
- Beane said the gap between the Athletics' offer and Iwakuma's contract demands wasn't as wide as reported. "Publicly it looked like we were farther off than we really were," Beane said. "We were actually on the same page...If you factored in what we had to pay for the posting, and then the contract that we were willing to give, it came out to about what they were looking for on a yearly basis."
- Beane isn't sure if the A's will pursue Iwakuma next winter, but the team "will certainly be monitoring that situation."
On Oakland's impressive young pitching staff...
- "If you've got good pitching, particularly starting pitching and it's young, you've probably accomplished about 60-65% of what you need to do to be a contending club."
- "In most cases, I think clubs realize they're [Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez] not the type of players we're going to discuss. That's why it's not so easy sometimes when people say 'Hey, they need a big bat,' you've got to understand that those big bats that people might want to trade, the first players they're going to ask for are those young pitchers. The challenge here is not robbing Peter to pay Paul when you're addressing your weaknesses. That's why we had to be very specific with who we went after and make sure that we didn't take away from the part of the club that made us very successful and ultimately will be very important for us going forward."
- "You can look at players and say 'Hey, this would be a perfect fit,' but in a trade situation, if it's the perfect fit, in many cases it would cost us one of those pitchers."
On a recent piece from Bob Klapisch of FOXSports.com, saying that Beane may step down if the franchise isn't allowed to move to San Jose...
- "I feel very fortunate, I love this franchise and I love being here. As much as rebuilding sounds like it's exhausting and we all like to win, it's also very exhilarating when you start to see progress. The fun of that part hasn't stopped for me, and until it does, I'll continue to do something I'm very proud to do, which is run this club."