A couple weeks ago, we learned that the Oakland Athletics had won the bidding process for the rights to talk exclusively with Japanese righthanded pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. It was revealed later that the Twins had also submitted a bid, but obviously offered less money than the $17 million the A’s offered to the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Iwakuma’s current team. This led some Twins fans to accuse the Twins of being cheap, just because they were outbid by another team that is somewhat mistakenly perceived as also having a tight wallet.
Well, on Sunday we learned from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that the Athletics halted talks of signing Iwakuma to a contract. “Oh, it’s just the A’s being cheap as usual,” you might say. But consider that the Athletics were considering signing Iwakuma to a contract that paid him $3-5 million per year. Iwakuma wanted “Barry Zito money,” or $18 million per year. If this had happened to the Twins, would you still accuse them of being cheap?
$18 million per year means that the Twins could have re-signed Carl Pavano (or your favorite free agent) and maybe even sign another impact player instead of inking Iwakuma. Lucky for the A’s, their $17 million will be returned since they didn’t sign Iwakuma, but that would have been a whole lot of money if they had chosen to go through with the deal. It was disappointing that the Twins didn’t win the posting process, but if this was how highly Hisashi Iwakuma thought of himself, then the Twins never had a realistic chance of signing him anyway.
Edit: It appears now that Iwakuma’s agent, Don Namura, was not asking for “Barry Zito money,” but rather was looking at roughly $8-12 million per year for Iwakuma, citing comparable contracts such as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hiroki Kuroda. I don’t know if Iwakuma would necessary be worth that much, but it would seem that the Twins would have just re-signed Carl Pavano rather than pay an unproven (in MLB) pitcher that much money.