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History suggests A’s are right to balk at Japanese ace Hisashi Iwakuma’s asking price

Nov 24, 2010, 3:15 PM EDT

Hisashi Iwakuma pitching

Earlier this week contract talks between the A’s and Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma broke down over what was, depending on which side you choose to believe, either a large or humongous gap in expected value.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle initially reported that Iwakuma was asking for a “Barry Zito-type deal” before agent Don Nomura quickly squashed that A’s-friendly spin.

Nomura, who’s been very active in using Twitter to get Iwakuma’s side of the negotiations public, indicated a couple days ago that he felt the talks were done. However, yesterday he e-mailed Slusser to say: “I don’t know if the talks are dead. I am assuming it’s over, however I am open for discussion until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 7.”

According to Nomura the A’s offered Iwakuma a four-year, $15.25 million deal, which along with the $19.1 million posting fee would have made their total investment about $8.5 million per season. Iwamura is said to be seeking a three-year deal worth $11-12 million per season, in addition to the posting fee.

If the A’s offer and Iwakuma’s asking price are accurate, then it may be a moot point whether or not the two sides are continuing to negotiate. Oakland wants to invest a total of about $8.5 million per season, while Iwakuma is seeking a deal that would make the A’s total investment about $18 million per season. And based on previous Japanese players going through the posting process, Iwakuma and Nomura are further outside the norm than the A’s.

Typically the posting fee given to the Japanese team is very close to the contract given to the player. For instance, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s deal with the Red Sox involved a $51 million posting fee and $52 million contract.  Ichiro Suzuki’s deal with the Mariners involved a $13 million posting fee and $14 million contract. Kei Igawa’s deal with the Yankees involved a $26 million posting fee and $20 million contract. And the splits were similar for Akinori Iwamura and Kazuhiro Ishii.

In this case Iwakuma’s posting fee was $19.1 million, yet he’s reportedly asking for a deal in the neighborhood of $35 million when the previously posted players outlined above suggest the contract should be closer to $20 million. Toss in the fact that the A’s have all the leverage because the $19.1 posting fee is refunded if a deal can’t be struck and it’s tough not to conclude that Iwakuma and Nomura are driving too hard a bargain.

  1. Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Nov 24, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    I remember hearing a boston writer on the radio in San Diego back in 2006 (December) saying that (Said writer heard) Larry Lucheno flew to Japan and told Seibu to inform Daisuke that if he did not take the offered deal that they (Seibu) would send him down and not let him pitch another season in NPB, therefore destroying his value and a chance at pitching in the MLB.

    That is roughly what I remember hearing, I am probably missing a major point in there so don’t take it word for word here.

    I really wish I could find a link to that interview. I will search online for it.

  2. apbaguy - Nov 25, 2010 at 12:52 AM

    Billy did a $ 9M/yr, multi year deal before, with Esteban Loiaza. Esteban’s main contribution to A’s lore was getting arrested in the East Bay doing over 150 in his Ferrari the night (early morning) before he was scheduled to pitch. No wonder he’s balking at Iwakuma’s asking price. Iwakuma probably has a “bullet car” that does 300.

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