iwakuma with blue glove

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.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.