(Photo by Associated Press)
The news drifted out of Japan Monday, and figures to jump-start the Hot Stove League — right-handed pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, considered the second-best pitcher in Japan behind Yu Darvish, has been posted. That means all 30 MLB teams have until Friday to submit their sealed bids for the right to negotiate with Iwakuma, who played for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Will the Mariners get involved in the bidding? As I mentioned in the article, it’s always a possiblity considering the Japanese ties of their ownership. And there has been persistent speculation in the Japanese media that the M’s will be a player for Iwakuma, who could fill Seattle’s need for a No. 2 pitcher behind Felix Hernandez. On the other hand, the Mariners don’t appear to have much money to spend this winter, and their crying need is obviously for offense. On the other other hand, it has often been speculated that the M’s have separate financial guidelines when it comes to Japanese players.
The Kyodo article speculates the bidding for the negotiating rights to Iwakuma will be in the $16 million to $17 million range. In my article, I threw out the comparison to Kei Igawa, for whom the Yankees paid $26 million to out-bid other teams for the right to negotiate with Igawa (who signed a five-year, $20-million contract and has turned out to be a major bust). Don’t forget, this is a two-part process. Teams must first put in the high bid merely to earn the right to negotiate with a “posted” player. Then they must come to terms on a contract.
If Rakuten doesn’t think the winning bid is enough, they can reject it, and club officials have let it be known they are prepared to do so. Iwakuma is 29 and has a 101-62 career record with a 3.32 ERA in 10 seasons. This past year, he was 10-9, 2.82 in 28 games.