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.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.