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.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?