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No, Hisashi Iwakuma did not want “Barry Zito money”

Nov 22, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT

iwakuma with blue glove

As was reported yesterday, talks between the Athletics and Japanese pitcher Hisahi Iwakuma broke down. A bit surprising things fell apart so quickly given that the A’s put up a sizable (and refundable) posting fee for the right to talk to him, but it happens.  The talking point that came out of this yesterday was that Iwakuma wanted “a Barry-Zito-type deal.”  That in Susan Slusser’s report, which was clearly based on conversations with Athletics people.  But there are two sides to every story, and last night Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura took to Twitter to give his side of the story.

The upshot: the A’s were offering a four-year, $15.25 million deal, and were using Kei Igawa and Colby Lewis as comps, while Nomura was using Hiroki Kuroda (three-years, $35.3 million) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (six-years, $52 million).  That’s certainly a lot more than the A’s were offering, but it’s not “Barry Zito money.”  To the extent such a claim is even remotely plausible, it was because the A’s were figuring the posting fee into the equation too,  believing that it should be counted as part of the contract somehow.  I agree with the agent, however, in that the posting fee should have nothing to do with it. The player doesn’t get the posting fee and it should not change the assessment of what he’s worth. It was the A’s who chose to pursue a pitcher through a mechanism that occasions higher transactions costs, not Iwakuma, and for them to suggest that his contract demand was  for “Barry Zito money” because of the posting fee is disingenuous.

Oh, final note: Nomura said that he doesn’t believe the A’s when they say they’ll now turn their attention to other starters, and he adds one last dig: the A’s offer to Adrian Beltre “was just PR.”

I find all of this fascinating separate and apart from what it means for the A’s rotation and Iwakuma’s career prospects.  Absent Twitter, it would have been much harder for Nomura to get this information out there, and as a result, the team’s erroneous “Iwakuma wants Barry Zito money” line would be allowed to carry the day, with the player being unfairly painted as unreasonable. He wanted more than they wanted to pay, but he was not being crazy if his agent is to be believed.

At the same time, I’m not sure I’d handle this the same way if I were Nomura. I mean, yeah, it might be frustrating when the team tries to unfairly portray your player as greedy, but I can’t help but think that, in the long run, Nomura’s job will be harder as a result of sharing so much on his Twitter feed.  Unlike the A’s, Nomura doesn’t have a fan base he needs to placate with public relations. If he needed to counter what the A’s were putting out there, he could simply place a phone call to any team to whom he wants to shop his clients’ services and set them straight.   By taking to the figurative rooftops and shouting about his displeasure with the A’s, he could very well be alienating other teams who don’t want the dirty laundry of negotiations shared.

  1. BC - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    It’s refundable? When did that start? I thought most of the Dice-K hubbub was that the $40mil (or whatever it was) that Boston put up was a one-time, nonrefundable fee. I must have missed the memo. Or is it done case by case?

    • Alex K - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:01 AM

      I’m pretty sure the posting is refunded if the team doesn’t sign the player to a contract.

  2. okobojicat - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Its always been refundable.

    The better question we need to ask is why don’t the A’s have the rights to sell their right to negotiate? Why can’t they turn to the Pirates and say “for $5mill and prospect X you can negotiate with his agent” and then at the point when he signed, the A’s could get what they want.

    Also, the entire posting scheme is just silly. There isn’t posting for Indepedent Ball players. or Mexican League. I understand that the Japanese league is a lot more competitive with better talent but the restrictions of how a player gets to the US is silly.

    • BC - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM

      They just trying to protect themselves against being totally raided.

  3. apbaguy - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    The posting fee was set up by the Japanese league owners to transfer money directly to the teams. It’s an auction format. I’m not sure how much the team owner of a posted player has to share with the rest of the league, though.

    As for Nomura’s claim that the A’s bid on Beltre was purely PR: congrats, you’ve correctly read the tea-leaves. Look, free agents with anything left in the tank don’t want to come to Oakland. Even Justin Upton, with only a 4 team no-trade, included Oakland in that select group. Why, you ask? Since 2006, when Beane pulled the plug on a 1st place team, many players who actually want to win have sensed a lack of commitment to winning. Throw in the style of play (not aggressive), the terrible dressing room and confined facilities, and cheap, Angelos type owners (profit before winning), and it’s a perfect storm for Nomura and other agents to back out on any chance for their guy to play there. Even Scutaro turned down more years and total dollars to play in Boston over Oakland. Nomura would have been wiser to keep a lower profile, however. He’ll have to negotiate with somebody else next year, and that somebody isn’t going to be anxious to have his dealings splashed all over the internet.

  4. thinman61 - Nov 22, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    It’s interesting that Oakland’s supposed offer to Beltre has received zero traction in the US press. Everything about it ultimately comes back to the same Latin American source.

    • apbaguy - Nov 22, 2010 at 12:39 PM

      It did get a low-profile mention (in the “notes” section) of the SF Chron’s A’s beat reporter’s column. She, like everyone else out here, realized there was zero chance of Beltre taking the offer.

  5. tomemos - Nov 22, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    I said this in the other thread, but I really think that the A’s might have posted with the thought that they could keep other AL teams from getting Iwakuma one way or the other. At the very least, they had nothing to lose. Of course, someone asked why they didn’t do that with Matsuzaka, and I don’t have an answer for that.

  6. Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Nov 22, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    I have to disagree with this sentence: “Unlike the A’s, Nomura doesn’t have a fan base he needs to placate with public relations.”

    I don’t believe the A’s have a fan base to placate either.

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