The Oakland Athletics leaked information damaging to Hisashi Iwakuma’s credibility during the failed negotiations with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace, the pitcher himself has revealed in an exclusive interview with Kyodo News.
Iwakuma, who became the first posted player not to sign with a major league team two weeks ago, said Oakland manager Billy Beane as well as the San Francisco Chronicle apologized over some erroneous reporting that surfaced during the 30-day talks, which ended with the right-hander going back to Rakuten.
Iwakuma said the Athletics were downright forceful from the first day of negotiations, never showing a true willingness to enter dialogue. His agent, Don Nomura, has said Oakland only barely improved its initial offer of $15.25 million over four years in the end.
“Right from the first offer, they told us that if we didn’t accept, they were prepared to issue a press release at any time saying the talks fell apart,” Iwakuma said Sunday. “I was prepared to see it out until the end because things like that are part and parcel of negotiations, especially in the early stage.”
“But then stories were coming out from over there, saying things like Iwakuma had asked for $105 million over seven years. It was completely untrue, and it was sad to see it. That’s when I started to lose faith and got the impression that they didn’t really want me,” he said.
“They apologized to me through my agent over the reports. I got one from the San Francisco Chronicle, and Billy Beane said he wanted to meet and apologize in person. We asked them to issue a correction because anyone reading the story can’t tell what’s right and what’s not, but they weren’t willing to talk on that front either,” he said.
Iwakuma said that after Beane, the slick G.M. featured in the best-selling book “Moneyball,” tried to play hard ball, the talks were over as far as he was concerned.
“Some might go to the majors at any price, but for me, it’s important that I’m actually needed by the team,” Iwakuma said. “After what went on, I wasn’t going to go no matter how high they went with their offer.”
The 29-year-old Iwakuma is eligible for free agency next year but until then, he wants to concentrate on helping the new-look Eagles win the Japan Series title under new skipper Senichi Hoshino.
“I feel refreshed, and I’m thrilled to be playing for Rakuten again,” he said. “They were happy I decided to stay and it feels nice to be wanted. The guys on the team welcomed me back with open arms.”
“I’m only thinking about playing for Rakuten right now. We have a new manager and we have a legitimate shot at winning the championship. That has to be our goal, and our only goal,” he said.
Dragons add pair
NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Chunichi Dragons signed Dominican-born players Joel Guzman and Felix Carrasco for 2011, the Central League champions announced Monday.
Guzman, 26, a utility player who had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, has agreed to a salary of $300,000, while the switch-hitting Carrasco is set to make $150,000.
Carrasco has no experience playing in the majors.
This past season, Guzman hit 33 home runs for the Double-A Bowie Baysox in the Eastern League. Carrasco played for Metroporitana in the Dominican leagues.
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks have reached a basic agreement on a two-year contract with Venezuelan slugger Alex Cabrera, sources said to Kyodo News on Monday.
Softbank is set to make an announcement in the coming days after working out the terms of the deal with the 38-year-old Cabrera, who was released from the Orix Buffaloes at the end of the 2010 season.
The Hawks have already picked up free agents Seiichi Uchikawa and catcher Toru Hosokawa from the Yokohama BayStars and the Seibu Lions, respectively, and Cabrera will be a welcome addition in bolstering their lineup.
Cabrera joined the Lions in 2001 and matched the single-season record of 55 home runs the following season. He captured the Pacific League RBI title in 2006.
The first baseman played for Orix from 2008 through 2010. This past season, he hit 24 homers with 82 RBIs in 112 games. Cabrera has a career 346 home runs with 911 RBIs over 10 seasons in Japan.