SENDAI – Hisashi Iwakuma appears to be heading back to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles next season after talks between the right-hander and the Oakland Athletics broke down, a major league source said Monday.
The Athletics, never big spenders on players, have told Iwakuma that they “have no budget” to sign him, according to the player’s agent Don Nomura.
“If it ends like this, then I guess they really didn’t want me,” the 29-year-old Iwakuma said, clearly despondent with the way negotiations have turned out.
Nomura said on his Twitter site that Oakland came out with a four-year proposal worth $15.25 million, which, in terms of average annual salary, is no different from what Iwakuma has made with the Eagles.
Nomura said he asked the Athletics to reconsider their offer, using the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda as a measuring stick. Kuroda has re-signed with the Dodgers this off-season for one year at $12 million.
But according to Nomura, Oakland came back with a cold reply, saying the team cannot afford to spend more on the World Baseball Classic winner when taking into account the $19.1 million posting fee it will have to pay Rakuten for the exclusive rights to negotiate with Iwakuma.
Nomura, he said, told the Athletics he would consider lowering his demands but has not heard back from them.
The deadline for negotiations is Dec. 7. If Oakland and Iwakuma — who does not qualify for free agency until next year — do not reach an agreement by then, the pitcher goes back to Rakuten.
Eagles representative Jun Yoneda said, “I can’t comment until it’s official, one way or the other. I want him to live out his dream. I hope they keep talking as long as time allows it.”
Widely regarded as the second-best pitcher in Japan after Yu Darvish of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Iwakuma went 10-9 with a 2.82 ERA for the last-place Eagles this season.
In 2008, he was named the Pacific League MVP and won the Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young, after going 21-4.
Iwakuma has a career 101-62 record with a 3.32 ERA in 209 games.