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.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.