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

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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.

Former Yankees prospect Manny Banuelos signs a minor league deal with the Dodgers

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Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.

OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.

It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.