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.
Matt Guerrier has been linked to Boston throughout the offseason, but Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is said to be against the idea of handing out three-year contracts to relievers and Erik Boland of New York Newsday reports that Guerrier has agreed to a three-year deal with the Dodgers believed to be worth $12 million.
Guerrier is a Type A free agent, but the Dodgers won’t have to part with a draft pick because the Twins declined to offer him arbitration for fear that he’d accept and force them into a $5 million commitment for 2011.
Guerrier spent seven seasons in Minnesota as one of the most underrated relievers in baseball, posting a 3.38 ERA and .247 opponents’ batting average in 472 innings while twice leading the league in appearances. He’s had an ERA above 3.50 just once in six full seasons as a reliever and has made 70-plus appearances in each of the past four years.
However, he’s shown some signs of decline at age 32, as his strikeouts per nine innings have dropped from 7.0 in 2007-2008 to 5.4 in 2009-2010. His fastball velocity was also down about one mile per hour this year and Guerrier is a fly-ball pitcher whose secondary numbers (strikeouts, walks, ground-ball rate) have never been quite as strong as his ERAs. Los Angeles is getting a very capable, durable setup man, but the three-year commitment is a risky one.
This morning I wrote about how Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies leaves Carl Pavano as the top starting pitcher on the free agent market, but Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Pavano’s “other suitors” aside from the Twins “are pessimistic and think he’s going back to Minnesota.”
That jibes with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s latest report, which speculates that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin is no longer aggressively pursuing Pavano.
Melvin told Haudricourt that he got in touch with Pavano’s agent yesterday, but “just to gauge interest.”
Pavano resurrected his career in Minnesota, going 22-15 with a 3.97 ERA in 44 starts for the Twins after coming over in a mid-2009 deal from the Indians, so it makes sense that he’d want to re-sign.
However, with the Brewers and Nationals also being linked often to Pavano–and the Rangers perhaps jumping into the bidding late after missing out on Lee–there was speculation that he could be in line for a three-year deal, which seemingly would have taken the Twins out of the mix. If instead he’s choosing between two-year offers, the Twins can indeed be viewed as front-runners.
By waiting until the Cliff Lee domino fell Carl Pavano has put himself in position to be the most sought-after starting pitcher on the free agent market, which is both very smart on his agent’s part and remarkable given how the veteran right-hander was viewed just a couple years ago.
Pavano was a huge bust in New York, winning a grand total of nine games for the Yankees during a four-year, $40 million contract and spending more time on the disabled list than in the rotation.
After leaving the Yankees following the 2008 season his stock was so low and he was viewed as so undependable that Pavano managed only an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Indians that guaranteed him just $1.5 million. In the two seasons since then Pavano has pitched very well and even more surprisingly proven to be very durable, not missing a single start while going 31-21 with a 4.39 ERA in 420 innings.
Even before Lee made his decision Pavano was drawing significant interest from at least three teams and now that the Rangers have missed out on Lee it’s possible they’ll join the Twins, Nationals, and Brewers in pursuit of Pavano. Put aside his history in New York and Pavano would be a pretty good fit for the Yankees too, but you can be certain there’s zero chance of general manager Brian Cashman signing him a second time.
In the span of two years Pavano has gone from oft-injured bust to dependable innings eater and he could be in line for as much as $30 million in upfront money after getting just $1.5 million guaranteed last time he hit the open market.
When the Twins traded starting shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Orioles last week it signaled that they were extremely confident about being able to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka before the December 26 deadline.
No deal is in place yet, but LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the two sides are close enough to an agreement that Nishioka will soon travel to Minnesota for a pre-signing physical exam.
Some of the details still be worked out include “who interprets for Nishioka and how many round-trip tickets between the United States and Japan the club will be on the hook for.” As for money, he’s expected to receive about $10 million over three seasons after the Twins bid $5 million to secure his negotiating rights.