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.