Hisashi Iwakuma pitching

History suggests A’s are right to balk at Japanese ace Hisashi Iwakuma’s asking price

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Earlier this week contract talks between the A’s and Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma broke down over what was, depending on which side you choose to believe, either a large or humongous gap in expected value.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle initially reported that Iwakuma was asking for a “Barry Zito-type deal” before agent Don Nomura quickly squashed that A’s-friendly spin.

Nomura, who’s been very active in using Twitter to get Iwakuma’s side of the negotiations public, indicated a couple days ago that he felt the talks were done. However, yesterday he e-mailed Slusser to say: “I don’t know if the talks are dead. I am assuming it’s over, however I am open for discussion until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 7.”

According to Nomura the A’s offered Iwakuma a four-year, $15.25 million deal, which along with the $19.1 million posting fee would have made their total investment about $8.5 million per season. Iwamura is said to be seeking a three-year deal worth $11-12 million per season, in addition to the posting fee.

If the A’s offer and Iwakuma’s asking price are accurate, then it may be a moot point whether or not the two sides are continuing to negotiate. Oakland wants to invest a total of about $8.5 million per season, while Iwakuma is seeking a deal that would make the A’s total investment about $18 million per season. And based on previous Japanese players going through the posting process, Iwakuma and Nomura are further outside the norm than the A’s.

Typically the posting fee given to the Japanese team is very close to the contract given to the player. For instance, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s deal with the Red Sox involved a $51 million posting fee and $52 million contract.  Ichiro Suzuki’s deal with the Mariners involved a $13 million posting fee and $14 million contract. Kei Igawa’s deal with the Yankees involved a $26 million posting fee and $20 million contract. And the splits were similar for Akinori Iwamura and Kazuhiro Ishii.

In this case Iwakuma’s posting fee was $19.1 million, yet he’s reportedly asking for a deal in the neighborhood of $35 million when the previously posted players outlined above suggest the contract should be closer to $20 million. Toss in the fact that the A’s have all the leverage because the $19.1 posting fee is refunded if a deal can’t be struck and it’s tough not to conclude that Iwakuma and Nomura are driving too hard a bargain.

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.