Condition Oakland

» 21 November 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei »

Further Edit: Apparently, the four-year, $30m figure that Sponichi reported is inaccurate.

Update, Sunday Night: It’s being widely reported that Iwakuma will return to Rakuten next season. The Mainichi Shimbun has a piece with quotes attributed to Iwakuma’s agent (Don Nomura) as saying “the two sides won’t sit down at the negotiating table again” and “after our first proposal, we were thinking we had a compromise through negotiation, but the Athletics seemed to think ‘if you can’t take this price, you don’t have to come here’. That wasn’t a condition we could accept.”

Meanwhile, Sponichi is saying that Iwakuma was looking for a deal for four years, $30m, but the A’s were only offering $3.5 – $3.75 annually. Paraphrasing Sponichi, that’s about what Iwakuma has been making in Japan, and he’s used to seeing starting pitchers who move to MLB get a big raise relative to their last season in NPB. Such are the perils of the posting, in my opinion.

I thought Rakuten might try to post him again this offseason, but the rules stipulate that under this scenario, the player can’t be posted again until November 1 of the following year. By then, Iwakuma should have completed enough service time to qualify for free agency.

Sunday Afternoon: Interesting news from my fellow Bay Area-ian, Susan Slusser: negotiations between Oakland and Hisashi Iwakuma are not going well and the two sides are far apart on a deal. Supposedly, the A’s are offering a deal of about fours year, $15m, while Iwakuma’s side is looking for about $15m per year. Barry Zito money, to use a particularly poor comparison. Shinya Tsuruta of Chunichi Sports puts negotiations at three years, $20m, which sounds a lot more reasonable.

The news broke yesterday in Japan, while I was taking a day off from writing. Sponichi had the first coverage of the story that I saw, and called the idea that Iwakuma might remain with Rakuten a “worst case scenario.” Tsuruta also pointed out that Iwakuma will take part in Rakuten’s Fan Appreciation Day on the 23rd, though his participation is qualified with the quote “it’s just as the words say, an event to show appreciation to the fans.” But the idea he could stay in Sendai is picking up steam. Iwakuma was signed for 2011 at 300-400m yen ($3.6-$4.8m), so I assume he would play for Rakuten under the terms of that contract should he and the A’s fail to work out a deal.

What no one seems to be saying is that Iwakuma is leaving a lot of money on the table in pursuing the posting route to the Majors. The posting system, by definition, assigns the player’s negotiating rights to a single team, and a large posting fee acts as a dis-incentive for the team to sign the player to a large contract (or rather, the posting fee is only viable if the player can be signed for a below-market rate). If Iwakuma were to return to Rakuten for 2011, barring injury he would be eligible for international free agency after the season. On the open market, I would expect him to command somewhere between $8m and $12m per season, for about three years. So in the end it will be up to Iwakuma to decide if getting to the Majors one year sooner is worth it.


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  1. Patrick
    21/11/2010 at 6:19 pm Permalink

    I think someone read a google translated article incorrectly somewhere to blurt out Zito. Iwakuma’s agent Dan Nomura is quoted as wanting Matsuzaka type money, which is still insane considering the posting fee, their NPB records, hype, etc. But this still sounds like a way more plausible negotiation tactic than the Zito comparison.

  2. Patrick
    21/11/2010 at 7:59 pm Permalink

    Don Nomura wants more than Matsuzaka type money.

    But consider the fact how this guy misjudged Nomo’s value, I’m not surprised.

    Back in 2000 .Brewers offered Nomo $8M/2yrs deal, but was turned down by Nomura. He asked for $15M/3yrs.

    Then we all know what happened next. Nomo signed $1.25M/yr deal with the Tigers.

    Nomura is a BAD agent who never know how much his client’s worth.

  3. Patrick
    21/11/2010 at 9:21 pm Permalink

    I half agree with you. Nomura has occasionally overplayed his hand; another example is Masato Yoshii in the late 90’s. But on the other hand he pushed the envelope in bringing Japanese players to MLB, which I think has been beneficial on both sides of the Pacific.

  4. Patrick
    21/11/2010 at 10:30 pm Permalink

    Patrick, I enjoy reading your analysis, but I need to disagree with Don Nomura here.

    He did one thing right: Helped Nomo to expose a loophole in the old system back in 1994.

    That’s it.

    Nomura never netted any good deals for his agents, like lester850 proves up there. I don’t see how an agent taking 5 or more per cent of his player’s contract money yelling for more is helping any side on this grand Pacific.

    Nomura is simply a bad agent. Just because he speaks both languages fluently, and has a famous and well-respected step-father (Katsuya Nomura), this doesn’t mean he’s helping any of his clients, the trans-Pacific player market, players right, or any thing.

    Please take note: Free Agency was already in place in Japan, in NPB, a few years before Nomo left Kintetsu. Baseball world in Japan was still adapting this new market and fine-tuning the rules, but Nomo and Nomura knew something could be done. The set was there; you simply needed to move the pieces.

  5. Patrick
    21/11/2010 at 11:04 pm Permalink

    He got Mac Suzuki a nice bonus from Seattle. That was another good deal.

    And you forgot about Robinson Checo, another Nomura fiasco.

    I wasn’t suggested that Nomura’s negotiating style is beneficial, just the fact that having Japanese players in MLB is a good thing, and recognizing that he played a role in getting things going. Yeah, if Nomo hadn’t pulled the retirement stunt someone would have come along at some point and done something. But it was a bold, risky move, and sometimes it takes a bold, risky move to really change things.

  6. Patrick
    21/11/2010 at 11:09 pm Permalink

    If you guys think it’s all Iwakuma side’s fault, why aren’t you talking about Arn Tellem too?

  7. Patrick
    22/11/2010 at 8:50 am Permalink
  8. Patrick
    22/11/2010 at 9:49 am Permalink


    I hope you won’t take this the other way, because I don’t intend to disagree just to disagree. While I enjoy your continuous work, and please go on, I still feel it’s necessary to go through Nomura’s track record case by case.

    Before that, here’s my point of view on Contract Philosophy in baseball:

    1. Long term security always better than short but big money (within the salary structure).
    2. Respect and lasting deal with your client and the clubs.

    Where is Mac Suzuki now? BR has a good salary category here, end of the webpage for every Major League player:

    $212,000. It was a decade ago, and Suzuki only signed for two years. Nothing impressive, even if you throw in the $10,000 earned bonus.

    I mean, Don couldn’t net long term deals for his clients, and from national news source, I have the impression that ballclubs felt more “rip-off” than quality returns from these players that Nomura sold.

    I bet some beat writers, locally, would argue against this kind of overexcited perspective, but Nomura couldn’t net either a long term or a well-praised deal in the Major League.

    I’m both a Chiba Lotte and a Hanshin Tigers fan, so I kind of feel both sides of the market: the cheap A’s and “moneyball” kind, that the Yankees/Red Sox names-matter-kind. Nomura is clearly not reading both sides of the spectrum.

    It’s tough to compare agents. But when I think about Boras, I remember how he got the Nats and the Red Sox to put as much as they can. Ever with the post-system-bargain, DiceK got a load of personal incentives, or benefits (free balcony tickets, first-class flights, personal trainers, etc.), and how about ARod? Three big contracts under Boras. The Nats signed two first-round draftees, Boras clients, in consecutive years. The Nats was in the Teixeira bid.

    Derrek Jeter, his agency helps him net commercial deals, boosting his marquee value. Even Josh Hamilton’s former agent had a good, personal relationship with his clients (he helped Hamilton get back to his feet after all the drug addiction and such).

    Nomo never got good deals through Nomura after his Dodgers years. I believe Nomo would be better off if he switch agent. I can go on and on. Like said, Nomura had ONE good move. But it’s baseball. Like in most fields, it’s about the career. Nomura’s career is mediocre at best.

  9. Patrick
    22/11/2010 at 10:01 am Permalink


    Thanks for the source. Nomura made a mistake here, overreacted. It’s business. And baseball is a “club.” He didn’t need to say those out loud. Now what will other GMs think about you?

    I think it just proved my earlier observation: Nomura had not earned respect from lasting deals from clubs. He’s not slew enough. The club is where you get your money.

    I think Japanese players need to look around for more sophisticated agencies around the world. Remember: Long term security, lasting relationship.

    Here’s Nomura’s full statement. He said nothing wrong, just bad timing. Now you’ll force Iwamura* to wait a year, and people will remember what you said (I made no edits but joined the sentences to read like real English):

    *By the way, I’m a big fan of Iwakuma. I trust the stats. He’ll translate like the stud Kuroda, another guy I dreamed my “honmyou” in America to sign, but didn’t. Iwakuma is not your typical groundballer, but with a plus of well mixed arsenals, perfect fit with the A’s fielding prowess. He’ll turn 31 in 2012, and less of a value to Major League ballclubs.

    Offer from the A’s were 4 years 15.25 ave of 3.81. A’s comps were igawa and Colby Lewis. Since their comps include posted and a free agent I countered with Kuroda who is FA and matsuzaka who was posted.

    A’s position was they paid 19.1 million to Rakuten so average annual salary AAV is at 8.5 million but posting fee has nothing to do with AAV. Saturday it came to take it or leave and would send a press release that the negotiations ended! I said go ahead!!

    Now A’s are blaming me for asking lots of money! Never spoke about the money just wanted 3 years vs 4 years also told Billy when he wrote me that I was seeking more than 9 million per year and I wrote back we could have done it lot lower!! But not at your offer, if u change ur mind we have till the 8th so call me. Mr Iwakuma will be a free agent next year and you will be missing out if u don’t sign him!! Short version of…

  10. Patrick
    22/11/2010 at 11:00 am Permalink

    You know, I’m not refuting any of the points you make. And I think the stream of tweets from Nomura was immature and ultimately bad for his client.

    I just think it’s worth remembering that Nomura pushed the envelope in getting Japanese players to MLB. All this negative stuff you’re talking about, while true, is counterpoint to that one big contribution he made. Everyone has their own view on the good and bad, but I think it’s important to recognize both.

  11. Patrick
    22/11/2010 at 11:10 pm Permalink

    Unproven pitcher contract offer comparison!

    Stephen Strasburg: $15M/4yrs

    Hisashi Iwakuma: $15.25M/4yrs

    Iwakuma wins!!!!! 😀

    Well, I kind of remember the first agent who got Taiwanese players to MLB. A guy name Kao-Da Chang (who took Hong-Chih Kuo to US, just to take 20% of his signing bonus then disappear). If you ask any Taiwanese MLB fan, he’s gonna tell you this guy is an a**hole:p

  12. Patrick
    22/11/2010 at 11:17 pm Permalink

    Well, a NPB fan just talked to me moment ago. She said there’s one japanese report saying that Iwakuma only asked for like $5M/yr before Rakuten posted him.

    She asked me if Susan Slusser’s report was accurate because she never thought that Iwakuma is the money man type player. I told her she has some connection to the club so it’s a good chance that her report can be trust.

    Did you read such report before?

  13. Patrick
    23/11/2010 at 10:39 pm Permalink

    The 4 year 30m figure in Sponichi includes the posting fee, which the A’s are counting as part of Iwakuma’s value, but obviously Iwakuma won’t be receiving.

    Things are looking more and more like it’d be better for him to just use free agency next year. Then again, this could just be the negotiation tactic of both parties.