Throughout the 30-day window for the A’s to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma agent Don Nomura criticized the team via Twitter and now that the window has closed without a contract being signed his criticisms are even more plentiful.
Nomura told the Associated Press that the A’s “never showed any respect” and “their offer was low and they weren’t sincere.”
It’s easy to paint the A’s as the bad guys and it wouldn’t be surprising if they were less than ultra-motivated to work out a contract that wasn’t favorable to them, but the “posting system” for Japanese players is more to blame and Nomura’s reported asking price for Iwakuma was also significantly above the precedents established by previous Japanese players coming to MLB.
Oakland bid $19.1 million for the exclusive negotiating rights to Iwakuma and the money was refunded when the two sides were unable to work out a deal. From the A’s point of view they took a headline-grabbing flier on a player they liked, couldn’t come to an agreement, and moved on with their lives. From Iwakuma’s point of view his plans were ruined and he now heads back to Japan for another season, but the system working that way isn’t the A’s fault.
Beyond that, previous Japanese players signing with MLB teams have agreed to contracts roughly equal to the posting fee. Oakland offered Iwakuma a four-year, $15.25 million contract that was slightly below the $19.1 million bid, but Nomura was reportedly asking for a three-year deal worth at least $35 million. In terms of following precedent, the A’s offer was much closer to the norm than Nomura’s demands.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.