Hisashi Iwakuma Rumors

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.

Quick Hits: Iwakuma, Draft, Mariners

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.

Beane On Beltre, Iwakuma, His Future In Oakland

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."

On the Athletics' pursuit of Adrian Beltre

  • "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."


Quick Hits: Garza, Rays, Aardsma, Iwakuma

On this day last year the Rangers agreed to sign Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year, $5MM deal.  In 2011, the veteran continues to look for a home with the Orioles, Angels, and Rays said to be interested.  Let's take a look at the batch of links for tonight..

  • Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report is glad that the Rangers didn't overpay to land Matt Garza.  The right-hander was shipped to the Cubs in an eight-player deal.
  • Speaking of the Garza deal, Dave Cameron writes in a piece for Fangraphs that there's a good chance that the Rays got better in the short term by making the trade.
  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times that David Aardsma's hip surgery was more extensive than first thought and the hurler might not be ready by Opening Day.  The M's were shopping the 29-year-old for quite some time but now they'll wait even longer to move him.
  • In an interview on 1500-ESPN, Twins GM Bill Smith revealed that the club finished a distant second in the bidding for Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma (information passed along by Aaron Gleeman).  Minnesota offered $7.7MM for the hurler while the Athletics won the bidding with $19.1MM.  Ultimately, Iwakuma and the A's couldn't agree to terms.

Hisashi Iwakuma Re-Signs With Rakuten

Hisashi Iwakuma has re-signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles for approximately $3.6MM, tweets Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times. He adds that the right-hander seems unwilling to discuss a move to MLB until he qualifies for international free agency, which will be after the 2011 season.

Iwakuma, 29, and the Athletics failed to reach an agreement on a contract after Oakland was the high bidder for his negotiating rights. The player was said to be seeking $12MM per season, but the A's were thinking along the lines of $3-5MM per season. Because no deal was reached, Rakuten did not receive the $19.1MM posting fee. Since Iwakuma will be a free agent next year, the team won't get any posting money then either.

Odds & Ends: Iwakuma, Heisey, White Sox, Feliciano

One year ago today, the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks finalized the trade that sent Curtis Granderson to New York, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to Arizona and Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson to Detroit. As we await this year's answer to that 2009 blockbuster, here are some links to enjoy…

  • Phil Coke, who was also in that trade, is set to move to the Tigers' rotation, but Detroit isn't desperate for left-handed relief help. Daniel Schlereth, yet another product of the trade, could be a cog in the Tigers' 'pen, so they're showing limited interest in free agents like J.C. Romero and Ron Mahay, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck.
  • The agent for Hisashi Iwakuma, Don Nomura, told the Associated Press (via ESPN) that the A's showed no respect for his client in their recent negotiations. The agent is clearly frustrated by what he perceives to be a lack of sincerity from Oakland.
  • The D'Backs have some interest in outfielder Chris Heisey, but have yet to approach the Reds about him, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).
  • The Phillies are still interested in a potential deal with Chad Durbin, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • White Sox GM Kenny Williams tells Jayson Stark of ESPN.com that his team is "about tapped out" in terms of payroll flexibility (Twitter link).
  • The Indians officially announced their minor league deal with Paul Phillips today.
  • The Yankees met with Pedro Feliciano's representatives today, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff (on Twitter).

Athletics Rumors: Iwakuma, Matsui, Duchscherer

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser has some updates regarding Oakland's offseason plans:

  • Oakland increased its offer to Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma, but the two sides were still unable to agree on a deal. Iwakuma was looking for around $12MM per season, and the A's were unwilling to spend more than $36MM, including the posting fee. The A's will have interest in Iwakuma again next offseason, when he is a free agent and doesn't require a posting fee.  However, relations may be strained after Iwakuma's agent Don Nomura told the AP the A's "never showed any respect" toward his client.
  • The A's may take the $19.1MM posting fee that will be returned and focus on other areas, including Hideki Matsui. Oakland GM Billy Beane met with Matui's agent, Arn Tellem, Monday at the Winter Meetings. According to Slusser, Matsui has "strong interest" in playing for the A's. Derrek Lee and Nick Johnson are potential alternatives.
  • According to this tweet from Slusser, if the A's look to add a veteran starter, it may be a familiar face, coming in the form of Justin Duchscherer.