On November 5th, two days before free agency begins for hundreds of MLB players, bidding for Japanese baseball player Hisashi Iwakuma ended. Hisashi Iwakuma was “posted” by the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese baseball league. To those unfamiliar with the posting system, I will give a brief overview of how it works.
Professional baseball players in Japan who want to jump across the Pacific Ocean and play in the Major Leagues must go through a procedure called being posted. The first step in the process is requesting that their current Japanese team allow them to leave for the States (only when the player is still under contract).
After all of that is squared away, the Japanese ball player will be presented to Bud Selig and all 30 MLB teams. During the next four days, in this case November 2nd through the 5th, all of the interested teams will make bids, amounting to tens of millions of dollars. As with all silent auctions, neither the individual teams nor their Japanese Pro team will know who the highest bidder was.
Once bidding has ended, the player's team has a few days to decide if the offer is high enough. And then, if it is, will accept the bid. The record winning bid is over $51 million dollars by the Boston Red Sox to acquire Daisuke Matsuzaka. After the bid is accepted, the Major League Baseball club that bid the highest will negotiate a contract with the player until a deal is reached.
Iwakuma finished the end of last season with 10-9 record and a 2.82 ERA and is one of the top pitchers in Japan behind Yu Darvish. He starred on the 2009 Japanese World Baseball Classic championship team, making hitters with real MLB service time look like fools.
Iwakuma was born in 1981 so he is still relatively young and has a number of good years left in his arm. In Japanese NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) league play, he has a career record of 101-62 with a 3.32 earned run average. He also sports a career 3.36 K/BB ratio, which is very solid.
It is rumored by mlbtraderumors.com that the Seattle Mariners won the bidding for Iwakuma with a $13 million bid. Seattle would be a logical destination for Hisashi Iwakuma for several reasons.
First off, the Mariners are owned by Nintendo, which as we all know is a Japanese company. Secondly, Seattle has, in the past several years, been home to many Japanese born baseball players such as Ichiro, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Kenji Johjima. Not only have the Mariners had many Japanese ball players suit up with them, but they have acquired one of them through the posting system.
Ichiro was acquired straight from Japan via the posting system, with a winning bid of over $13.1 million. The third reason this would make sense is that Iwakuma has stated his desire to play on the West Coast, and mlbtraderumors.com has stated that neither Los Angeles team made a bid.
However, the Rakuten Golden Eagles still have to accept the bid and the Seattle Mariners would have to work out a contract with Iwakuma before anything is official. Only the Golden Eagles accepting the bid stands in the way, as it was rumored that they wanted over $15 million dollars for Iwakuma. No matter the case, in the next few days we will know if Hisashi Iwakuma is going to be the newest face on a Seattle team that needs them.
UPDATE: Despite the Mariners strong bid, they have lost. The Oakland Athletics have won the bidding with a bid of $17 million. So, Oakland will have the exclusive rights to sign the right handed pitcher who projects as a #4 starter.