M’s In On Hisashi Iwakuma

Dave · November 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Reports out of Japan have the Mariners as the team believed to have placed the highest bid for Hisashi Iwakuma, the 29-year-old RHP who was posted by Rakuten this week. Reportedly, the Mariners bid $13 million, while Rakuten was hoping for a bid in the $16 to $17 million range. They have until next Thursday to decide whether to accept the highest bid, in which case the winning team would then have exclusive negotiating rights with Iwakuma. If they came to an agreement, they would pay their bid figure to Rakuten. If they did not come to an agreement, then they would not pay the posting fee, and he would stay in Japan for another year.

Here’s a write-up on Iwakuma from Patrick Newman, the best source of Japanese information around. The basic summary is that Iwakuma appears to be a pretty extreme groundball guy with good command of five pitches, and while he might not have a dominating strikeout pitch, he’s still considered second only to Yu Darvish among Japanese pitchers in potential to succeed in Major League Baseball. The Hiroki Kuroda comparisons are going to be common, as he had a similar profile when he came over, and he’s been nothing short of a massive success for the Dodgers.

If Iwakuma turned out to perform at a Kuroda type level, he’d be the second best free agent pitcher on the market, and a $13 million posting fee would almost certainly be a huge bargain. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, as if the reports are true and the M’s did win the bidding, you’re probably looking at the team’s #2 starter next year. Given that the organization has traditionally paid international signing bonuses and posting fees out of a separate budget than the one that governs the Major League roster, this could be a pretty significant development, giving the team a quality pitcher while still allowing them enough money to get an impact hitter.


54 Responses to “M’s In On Hisashi Iwakuma”

  1. IwearMsHats on November 5th, 2010 6:56 pm

    The system of bidding for rights to negotiate with a player seems odd. What do you think of it?

  2. J-Dog on November 5th, 2010 7:15 pm

    I presume Iwakuma, if signed, would probably replace Francis in the offseason plan post?

  3. bcsimons on November 5th, 2010 7:18 pm

    Of course this info comes out right after you post your 2011 offseason plan right? :)

  4. ck on November 5th, 2010 7:20 pm

    Thank you, Dave, for the Iwakuma post. I wonder if the Mariners will prioritize the acquisition of Japanese players, to continue a relationship with Japanese TV and advertizing opportunities to last longer than Ichiro’s career.

  5. vertigoman on November 5th, 2010 7:29 pm

    Maybe his presence would help League find his old friend the breaking ball.
    Very exciting news if it turns out to be true.
    And Dave, you get 5 million more (perhaps) to excite that fanbase and sell some season tickets!

    Wait, can’t seem to find that sarcmarc…

  6. Chris_From_Bothell on November 5th, 2010 8:01 pm

    This is the kind of thing I’d love to see the Ms do more of. Hurray for not sifting through the bargain basement bin for once. Really hope this works out.

    Felix-Pineda-Iwakuma, the 1-2-3 punch in the 2012 playoffs… mmm.

  7. spankystout on November 5th, 2010 8:02 pm

    Felix, Pineda, and possibly Iwakuma?!?! I’m salivating

  8. smb on November 5th, 2010 8:02 pm

    Felix-Iwakuma-Pineda, please! Give me something I’m excited to watch anyway…of course won’t matter if we can’t score a run, but sounds enticing at least.

  9. smb on November 5th, 2010 8:02 pm

    whoa webjinx…I feel validated, anyway :-)

  10. spankystout on November 5th, 2010 8:04 pm

    Creepy…looks like I owe chris a coke.

  11. Sports on a Schtick on November 5th, 2010 8:37 pm

    Groundballs and 3.5:1 K/BB ratio. Mmmmmmmmm!

  12. Snake Hippo on November 5th, 2010 8:43 pm

    Plus, his last name means “stone bear”. That’s pretty badass.

  13. marc w on November 5th, 2010 10:18 pm

    More on Iwakuma:
    Here’s a pitch fx scouting report from Mike Fast at Baseball Prospectus.

    Based on the reports from Fast and Patrick Newman, the comp I’d go with (besides Kuroda) is Mike Pelfrey. Obviously, they’re not too similar physically, but they throw the same pitches, and have the same basic game plan. Pelfrey throws a bit harder, but he’s by no means a strike-out guy (under 5Ks per 9 last year). He’s used his 2-seamer and split-finger to get a lot of grounders – and keep his FIP in the low 4s.

    So: what would it take to get him? The Rakuten Golden Eagles probably won’t get their asking price of $16m-$17m, but it’ll take more than $10m. The market’s changed since the past few high-profile pitchers came over from the NPB, and Daisuke Matsuzaka is now more of a cautionary tale than a noteworthy comp. But Kuroda’s success in LA and general inflation means he won’t be a bargain pick-up.

    Still, a poor-man’s Kuroda or Pelfrey isn’t a bad thing, even at market value. I say go for it.
    And then get a shortstop.

  14. marc w on November 5th, 2010 10:20 pm

    Oh, and I can’t remember if Patrick linked this video or a different one, but if you want to see his delivery, check this out.
    At around 1:00, you get a glimpse of the old two-stage delivery that Sullivan notes was banned in NPB after the 2005 season.

  15. Gibbo on November 5th, 2010 10:21 pm

    I agree marc – could be a nice uner market value pic if he works out and leaves money elsewhere to still get a SS and DH.

    If this works out then it’s good to see Jack being agressive straight away. I think this is going to be a very busy winter for the M’s. Roll on!

  16. vertigoman on November 5th, 2010 10:23 pm

    “stone bear”

    Now that sound like a really bad idea. It’s kind of courageous, if not pointless, but nothing to hand your hat on. Just my opinion.

    Maybe this means he’s really good at running down hill.

    Since he’s Japanese I’d have to assume it’s a giant panda we’re talking about. And that just makes him an asshole,because giant pandas are veggies.

    Maybe there’s some PR points to win by getting this Panda pummeling puss out of Japan.

  17. Snake Hippo on November 5th, 2010 10:52 pm

    Pandas live in China, dumbass. Also, they’re not bears. And the Japanese word for panda is “panda”, while the word for bear is “kuma”. Which you will notice is the second half of Mr. Iwakuma’s surname.

  18. kakson on November 5th, 2010 11:08 pm

    Not stone, boulder.

    His name actually means something else because the Kanji is not boulder and bear… (although the boulder part is correct, the ‘kuma’ part of his name is not bear) but it CAN mean Boulder Bear if you don’t have the kanji to correct you, and in fact he is my favorite pitcher in Japan and I call him Boulder Bear to be cute with alliteration (I like him better than Darvish ’cause I’ve been a fan of his longer than Yu the dominant whipper-snapper).

    Boulder Bear might be coming to the M’s in 2011!? oh baby I’m pumped for next season!

    ‘Boulder Bear’ nickname copyright of kakson in 2008 ;)

  19. niterunner on November 5th, 2010 11:16 pm

    According to this, ‘iwa’ means rock (‘ishi’ means stone).

  20. Diehard on November 5th, 2010 11:33 pm

    I hope the reports are true. If Pineda is for real, then we have ourselves a pretty good starting rotation!

  21. Sparhawk2k on November 5th, 2010 11:58 pm

    Sweet. And as ck mentioned, it probably does make some sense to make sure they fill in more Japanese players to keep the value of those TV contracts up…

  22. Snake Hippo on November 6th, 2010 12:03 am

    According to this, ‘iwa’ means rock (‘ishi’ means stone).

    ‘iwa’ is larger, like a boulder or wall of rock or something. ‘ishi’ is smaller, like the sort of thing you throw. ‘stone’ seemed right to me, but since english doesn’t really differentiate between sizes, either one would be a fine translation.

    however, after some searching, the kanji for ‘kuma’ in ‘iwakuma’ is not in fact the one for ‘bear’. it means ‘corner’ or ‘cranny’ or something of that effect. lame.

  23. Westside guy on November 6th, 2010 2:10 am

    If the guy can pitch in the majors, I don’t care if his name translates to “balding woman who prances around in a tutu.”

  24. terry on November 6th, 2010 4:46 am

    Superbowl here we come!

  25. deluxmilkman on November 6th, 2010 5:31 am

    Why they don`t go after Hiroki Kuroda if they are hoping Iwakuma to pitch like Kuroda?

  26. samregens on November 6th, 2010 7:28 am

    Good news and I hope the M’s have the winning bid.

    This guy looks like he can be a cornerstone of the rotation. Or make that corner-rock.

    Now the FO, please find some guy who is comfortable hitting in Safeco to get some run support for the rotation.
    When a Cy-Youngish guy struggles to have an even record it really illustrates how much the offense sucks. (Also that whole “by the numbers, the most inept hitting in 30 years” thing).

  27. qwerty on November 6th, 2010 8:21 am

    If the guy can pitch in the majors, I don’t care if his name translates to “balding woman who prances around in a tutu.”

    That’s what “Zduriencik” means…

  28. vertigoman on November 6th, 2010 9:46 am

    Pandas live in China, dumbass. Also, they’re not bears. And the Japanese word for panda is “panda”, while the word for bear is “kuma”. Which you will notice is the second half of Mr. Iwakuma’s surname.

    Are you ok? Lighten up.
    Nope. i don’t know Japanese. I do know Pandas are bears, get up to snuff on the latest research. You can google it.
    It doesn’t matter sense you’re evidently wrong about your translation which sucks because Stone Bear would have been a cool nick name.

  29. J-Dog on November 6th, 2010 10:07 am

    From wikipedia – the totally accurate source of answers:

    For many decades the precise taxonomic classification of the Giant Panda was under debate because it shares characteristics of both bears and raccoons. However, molecular studies suggest that the Giant Panda is a true bear and part of the Ursidae family,[36][37] though it differentiated early in history from the main ursine stock. The Giant Panda’s closest ursine relative is the Spectacled Bear of South America.[38] The Giant Panda has been referred to as a living fossil.[39]

  30. lamlor on November 6th, 2010 10:16 am

    Ken_Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal
    Sources: #Rangers, not #Mariners, may be high bidder for RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, considered second best pitcher in Japan. MORE #MLB

    Don’t get to happy about this guy just yet.

  31. vertigoman on November 6th, 2010 10:21 am

    Damn. Damn. Damn.
    Poor guy. I really doubt he continues to excel in the “keeping the ball in the park” category when he pitches half his games in Arlington.

  32. arichner on November 6th, 2010 10:23 am

    Texas Rangers for the BLOCK! (assholes)

    anyway it seems Iwakuma did very well in the WBC (small sample size – 20ip) but my question is -and I assume the answer is yes – do they use the MLB ball in the WBC?

  33. Westside guy on November 6th, 2010 10:26 am

    Sources: #Rangers, not #Mariners, may be high bidder for RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, considered second best pitcher in Japan.

    The Rangers are beginning to annoy me. :-D

    (cue Godfather music)

    Nice team you got there, Mr. Ryan. It’d be a shame if something… happened to it.

  34. lalo on November 6th, 2010 10:35 am

    I hope it’s wrong, I really want to see Iwakuma in Seattle next year, Rosenthal is a good analyst but sometimes it is wrong, and I trust more in what Japanese media said

  35. Duncan Idaho on November 6th, 2010 10:43 am

    If it is the Rangers I’m glad because I doubt they get Berkman or Vlad to DH.

  36. IwearMsHats on November 6th, 2010 10:50 am


  37. lalo on November 6th, 2010 11:14 am

    “The FoxSports.com scribe adds that the Rangers may have bid too low.”


  38. IwearMsHats on November 6th, 2010 11:22 am

    Athletics bid on him according to MLBTR…it’s an AL West party!

  39. Matt the Dragon on November 6th, 2010 11:43 am

    Pandas live in China, dumbass. Also, they’re not bears. And the Japanese word for panda is “panda”, while the word for bear is “kuma”. Which you will notice is the second half of Mr. Iwakuma’s surname.

    Careful, you’ll confuse people with facts!

  40. jld on November 6th, 2010 11:56 am

    If the Rangers have gone big to get Iwakuma, that may mean that they don’t feel like they will/can sign Clifton Phifer. Which is good. Iwakuma may be great, but he’s not Cliff.

  41. SethGrandpa on November 6th, 2010 3:04 pm

    So if this happens, and since we have a separate fund for international players, this would probably then decrease the chance of signing Hiroyuki Nakajima, correct? Just be means of available cash. Or do you believe the international cache is bigger than I’m imagining?

    I’m just wondering because Nakajima seemed like a bigger need (yes, I know we just need any influx of talent) and intrigued me more than Iwakuma, (though really I’ve seen neither play so what the hell do I know?)

  42. heychuck01 on November 6th, 2010 3:27 pm

    I am curious; What is to stop a team from blocking other teams from aquiring a Japanese player?

    If I want to stop a team in my division from aquiring a Japanese player, why wouldn’t I offer an inflated bid for the rights to talk to the player, with no intention of signing that player?

    I mean, sure, go through the motions. But in the end the player goes back to Japan, I get my bid money back, and the team that really wanted the player from my division is SOL.

    There must be something to stop that, right?

  43. samregens on November 6th, 2010 4:03 pm

    Good point. I think there was some mechanism in place to prevent this, like the bid winning team paying part of it’s bid in any case if the talks fall through, or something like that, but it may be feeble.

    Anyway I despise the Rangers. Their despicable standards showed in the “we’ll just hide the cocaine thing under the rug since we’re winning” incident last year. And maybe this year too, who knows what else such a lax team would be hiding?

  44. Arron on November 6th, 2010 5:48 pm

    Is there any new news about who won the bidding?

  45. arsenal on November 6th, 2010 5:58 pm

    According to Rosenthal the A’s may have the highest bid: http://tinyurl.com/24dvfso

  46. terry on November 6th, 2010 6:13 pm

    According to me, the Ms may have the highest bid…

  47. z4ec on November 6th, 2010 6:19 pm

    Or they could simply make it so that if the top bidding team does not sign a deal with the player, it forfeits the right to negotiate and now the 2nd top bidding team gets to negotiate with the player, and so forth.

  48. ClaytonMiles on November 6th, 2010 6:25 pm

    Forgive me if someone addressed this already but .. Does anyone know if the team with the winning bid can trade or sell those exclusive negotiating rights to other teams?

    Would that be of value? I would think so but I guess it depends on the bid cost, market and deadlines to sign/trade.

  49. Westside guy on November 6th, 2010 7:05 pm

    Well, Rosenthal has now reported it to be the Mariners, the Rangers, and the Athletics.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest the Angels actually have the high bid.

  50. vertigoman on November 6th, 2010 8:40 pm

    I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest the Angels actually have the high bid

    It’s Vlad all over again!

    The rumor involving Oakland is bit of a stretch. THe idea has Oakland going after Stoned Panda (Is that right Snake Hippo?) then flipping one from their pool of starting pitching for a bat. Seems like a 12-18 mil posting fee is a bit much for trade bate regarding a small market team.

  51. vertigoman on November 6th, 2010 8:42 pm

    Rosenthal has us picking up Vlad BTW. Also, he seems to think we’ll coax Beltre back. Morosi has us going after VMart.

    I’d link but it’s Fox but it offends my anti Fox genes.
    Just trust me on this.


    And Panda Bears are bears. Really, they are. Not just a great band. I certainly hope we all learned something here.

  52. Jay Yencich on November 7th, 2010 4:18 pm

    The Japan Times reports that Rakuten is accepting the bid.

    We should know who won shortly.

  53. KaminaAyato on November 7th, 2010 9:23 pm

    I think we lost the bid to the A’s…

    …per Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura.

  54. Carson on November 8th, 2010 8:45 am

    So, first we won. Then, Texas won. Then.. out of left field the team who is in tight and has a relationship with them wins.

    I call shenanigans.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.