Hisashi Iwakuma pitching

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


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.

Braves sign Bud Norris to one-year contract

Bud Norris

Bud Norris has found a home for his attempt at a bounceback season, signing a one-year deal with the Braves. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says it’s worth $2.5 million, which is a huge cut from his $8.8 million salary this year.

Norris had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter from 2009-2014, but had a brutal 2015 season split between the Orioles and Padres with a 6.72 ERA in 83 innings and a late-season move to the bullpen.

In announcing the signing the Braves referred to Norris as a starting pitcher, so joining the rotation for a rebuilding team gives him a chance to get his career back on track with an eye on hitting the open market as a free agent again next offseason. And if he fares well, the Braves could use him to add a prospect or two at the trade deadline.

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.

Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.

He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.

In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.