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Return to NPB may aid Iwakuma in long run

by Jason Coskrey

Don’t weep for Hisashi Iwakuma.

Yes, the star pitcher has gotten a raw deal at the hands of the loophole infested posting system. The Oakland Athletics won the exclusive rights to negotiate with Iwakuma but the two sides failed to reach an agreement prior to the end of the 30-day deadline Tuesday, meaning the pitcher will return to Nippon Professional Baseball next season.

Whether it was the A’s or Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura, someone dropped the ball. The two sides haven’t been shy about pointing fingers, and many observers question whether the small-market A’s ever had any intention of signing the pitcher, while others believe Nomura doomed the talks by asking for an exorbitant amount of money.

Whatever the truth, the one certainty is that Iwakuma’s dream of competing in the major leagues will be put on hold for at least another year.

The A’s get their posting fee back and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles get their best pitcher back. Everyone gets something except Iwakuma, but then the system wasn’t put in place to help the players anyway.

For his patience, however forced, Iwakuma will gain a very valuable asset heading into the 2011 offseason: control.

From the time he requested to be posted until now, Iwakuma has been a leaf blowing in the wind. He was at the mercy of the Eagles, who could have accepted or denied his request to be posted, and had no control over which major league team he would sit at the negotiating table with.

Now Iwakuma will return to the NPB armed with the knowledge next year will be different. The hurler will be a free agent then, giving him more control over his future.

Iwakuma, not an arbitrary process, will decide which teams he’ll negotiate with. There will be no posting fees to factor in and the opportunity to talk with multiple franchises should open up a wealth of new options.

Should he turn in a solid farewell campaign for the revamped Eagles, the offers will come rolling in.

Plus Nomura, whose aggressive style has rubbed some the wrong way in the past, is as skilled an agent as they come. With the chance to play teams off each other, he should be able to navigate Iwakuma to a deal that all parties can be satisfied with.

Of course the flip side is a bad season in 2011 might drive down Iwakuma’s value. His health will also be a factor, especially given his prior injury history.

Either way, while Iwakuma will have to wait to fulfill his MLB aspirations, when he finally does, the ball will be in his court.

No longer will others have the power to decide his future with him forced to the sidelines as little more than an interested observer.

This time the decision was made for him, giving Oakland the power to make offers with a take it or leave it approach, knowing full well the pitcher had no other options if he indeed wanted to play in the majors next season.

Next year will be different. Good things often come to those that wait.

While it may not have been Iwakuma’s choice to display some patience, he’ll have a whole lot more to choose from because of it.