Hisashi Iwakuma Rumors

Mariners Agree To Sign Hisashi Iwakuma

10:57pm: Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times reports (on Twitter) that the incentives kick in at 20 starts, at which point Iwakuma will be paid a $200K bonus. He will make $250K for 22 starts, $300K for 25 starts, and $400K for 30 starts. The innings bonuses kick in at 140 IP, and he can earn another $400K for 200 IP.

Iwakuma spent four days in Seattle back in December according to Baker, during which time he met GM Jack Zduriencik and was shown around town. He didn't speak to Ichiro Suzuki before signing, says Baker (on Twitter).

7:35pm: The Mariners have agreed to sign right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma to a one-year contract worth $1.5MM, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (all Twitter links). The deal includes $3.4MM in incentives based on starts and innings pitched. We heard the two sides were closing in on a deal earlier this week. Iwakuma is a Sosnick-Cobbe client.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles posted the 30-year-old righty a year ago and the A's won the rights to negotiate with him for $19.1MM. However, the sides didn't work out a deal and Iwakuma re-signed with Rakuten. He posted a 2.42 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 119 innings in 2011 and became a true free agent after the season. He figures to join Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, and Michael Pineda in Seattle's rotation with Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush as candidates for the fifth spot.

Mariners Very Close To Deal With Hisashi Iwakuma

WEDNESDAY, 9:49am: The Mariners are very close to a deal with Iwakuma, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

TUESDAY, 5:06pm: The Mariners are the leading suitor for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, according to a Sponichi report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. Iwakuma has drawn interest from a number of teams, but seems to be favoring Seattle.

"We've received terms from a number of clubs, but considering where I'm needed and an environment my family can live in, at present we're closest to a contract with the Mariners," Iwakuma said.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported yesterday that the Orioles are in on Iwakuma. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that another American League team was pursuing the Sosnick/Cobbe client.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles posted Iwakuma a year ago and the A's won the rights to negotiate with him for $19.1MM. However, the sides didn't work out a deal and Iwakuma re-signed with Rakuten. The 30-year-old posted a 2.42 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 119 innings in 2011.

Mariners, Orioles In On Hisashi Iwakuma

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.

2:03pm: The Mariners and two other American League teams are in the hunt for free agent starter Hisashi Iwakuma, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

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.

Two Teams Have “Viable” Interest In Iwakuma

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.

Morosi On Fielder, Randy Wells, Guthrie

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.

Twins Notes: Ryan, Krivsky, Iwakuma

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.

Quick Hits: White Sox, Indians, Sabathia, Sizemore

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.

Pohlad Talks About Twins’ Future

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.

Hisashi Iwakuma Hires Sosnick-Cobbe Sports

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."

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Quick Hits: Iwakuma, Cintron, Twins, Buehrle

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.