A’s win exclusive rights to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma

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There’s no official word yet on which team submitted the winning bid for exclusive negotiating rights with Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, but his agent Don Nomura tweeted the following a short time ago:

岩隈さん Oakland Athletics!!!!

Translated, that reads: “Iwakuma’s Oakland Athletics!!!!”

Jon Heyman of SI.com has confirmed the news.

Oakland must still work out an actual contract with Iwakuma, as their winning bid only gives them the right to negotiate with him. If the two sides can agree to a contract within the next 30 days, the bid amount will go to his old team in Japan and Iwakuma will receive whatever deal he works out with the A’s.

Iwakuma is 29 years old and had a 2.81 ERA in 201 innings this season. His best year came in 2008, when he went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA to win the Pacific League MVP. He’s considered by many to be the No. 2 pitcher in Japan behind phenom Yu Darvish and when pitching in the World Baseball Classic last year one AL scout told Baseball America that he “would step into any rotation in the majors right now” and “might be the No. 1 [starter] for half the teams in the majors.”

Definitely an unexpected move from the A’s, who’re already pretty flush with young starting pitching and aren’t exactly known for throwing around money.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.