Athletics

Hisashi Iwakuma pitching

Twins finished runner-up in bidding for Hisashi Iwakuma

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Minnesota won the exclusive negotiating rights to Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a $5.3 million bid and eventually signed the Japanese infielder to a three-year, $9.25 million contract, and this afternoon general manager Bill Smith revealed that the Twins also finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.

In an interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN radio, Smith explained that the Twins bid $7.7 million for the negotiating rights to Iwakuma. Oakland blew that number out of the water with their winning $19.1 million bid, but then the A’s were unable to work out a contract with Iwakuma and he returned to Japan angry.

Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price it seems likely that the Twins also would have balked at his demands, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it’s possible he would have asked for significantly less money and/or the Twins would have had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable contract.

Whatever the case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Iwakuma is up for bid again next offseason.

Indians sign Travis Buck to minor league contract

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When the A’s opted against calling up Travis Buck from Triple-A in September the writing was on the wall for his departure from Oakland, and sure enough the former first-round pick was non-tendered a few weeks ago.

Buck made it to the majors less than two years after the A’s picked him in the first round out of Arizona State and hit .288 with an .850 OPS in 82 games as a 23-year-old rookie in 2007, but he’s spent more time on the disabled list than the field since then while hitting .215 in a grand total of just 88 games in the past three seasons.

Buck will try to resurrect his career in Cleveland after signing a minor-league contract with the Indians and at 27 years old there’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around, but his numbers at Triple-A haven’t even been particularly impressive during the past two seasons and Buck’s lack of power figured to keep him from becoming a star even before all the injuries did him in.

A’s get Josh Willingham from Nationals for two minor leaguers

Josh Willingham
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UPDATE: Buster Olney of ESPN.com says it’s a done deal, pending physical exams.

UPDATE #2: Rosenthal says the minor leaguers are reliever Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown. Neither are considered top prospects, but Rodriguez has a high-90s fastball and big-time strikeout totals in the minors. It’s a pretty good haul for Willingham.

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Earlier this week Oakland signed Hideki Matsui to replace Jack Cust as designated hitter and now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the A’s “are in serious discussions to obtain” Josh Willingham from the Nationals for “two minor leaguers.”

Rosenthal writes that Willingham would play primarily left field for the A’s, who would be taking a big hit defensively in order to add his right-handed bat to the lineup.

Willingham batted .268/.389/.459 with 16 homers in 114 games for the Nationals before undergoing knee surgery in mid-August, basically matching his career averages, and is set to earn about $6 million or so in his final season of arbitration eligibility.

Washington has been linked to nearly every free agent first baseman, so the fact that they’re aggressively shopping Willingham is no surprise, but it’s odd that the Nationals apparently have zero interest in simply playing Willingham at first base. He played there some in the minors and is as good offensively as any free agent they’ll be able to sign, but it’s seemingly never be an option.