• Yanks Win Rights To Kei Igawa

    Posted by on November 28th, 2006 · Comments (12)

    From the AP:

    The New York Yankees won the bidding for Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa when the Hanshin Tigers accepted their offer of just more than $26 million on Tuesday.

    Igawa went 14-9 last season with a 2.97 ERA in Japan. He struck out 194 to tie for the Central League lead, adding to the strikeout titles he won in 2002 and 2004.

    Igawa, the Central League’s 2003 MVP, has an 86-60 record with a 3.15 ERA. He would have to play in Japan for three more seasons before he could become a free agent.

    Three weeks ago, I wondered why Igawa was not getting more hype – since his overall numbers looked good. Then, ten days ago, I wondered why some thought Igawa was a back-of-the-rotation starter – despite the fact that he won several strikeout titles over in Japan.

    Yes, reports say that Igawa is a finesse pitcher who tops out around 90 MPH. But, for me, the (no pun intended) key to Igawa is that he’s a left-handed starter. You don’t have to throw hard, if you’re a lefty, to get big league hitters out. Heck, Barry Zito threw 1,200 pitches in 2006 that were thrown under less than 80 MPH – look it up.

    I like this move by the Yankees.

    No, Igawa will not be an ace for New York. In fact, he may never be the second best pitcher in the Yankees starting rotation. But, I would be willing to bet the following:

    * Igawa, next season, will not be a 42-year old with an ERA of five and a bad back.

    * Igawa, if he signs with the Yankees this winter, will not miss 17 straight months of pitching due to problems with his back, elbow, ribs, and rear-end.

    Therefore, right now, to me, Kei Igawa is a better 2007 starting pitcher prospect for the Yankees than Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano – who are presently the third and fourth starters in the Yankees rotation next season.

    Another way to look at it is to use Kazuhisa Ishii – also a LH-SP to recently come from Japan.

    Ishii was far from being an ace in America. In fact, he was a below league average pitcher. But, when he was sound and in rotation, he was good for around 30 starts a year and near 6 IP per start.

    If Kei Igawa can make 30 starts for the Yankees next year and cover around 180 innings pitched, he can help New York – just based on the fact that Team Torre presently has few others who can come close to providing this coverage next year without question.

    When you live in the days of “Wang and Mussina and a precipitation novena,” then picking up any able-bodied pitcher without having to give up major resources is a good move.

    Comments on Yanks Win Rights To Kei Igawa

    1. baileywalk
      November 29th, 2006 | 12:31 am

      Okay, that’s all fine and good. But 26 million dollars to talk to a fifth starter? I don’t get it. The Yankees bid 35 million for Matsuzaka. Are they saying they think Igawa is almost as good as Matsuzaka?

      I suppose you could find positives in the fact that he’s young (27), a lefty, and he can strike people out, but the idea of a guy coming here to America with a 88-90 mph fastball scares me. I also don’t like commiting years to anyone right now when we have so many people poised to join the rotation.

      He sounds like he could be a decent fifth starter for us — 4-ish ERA, 200 innings, etc. — but even if they get him for cheap (6-7 mil a year) and only sign him to a three-year deal, that’s still 46 million dollars.

      I hope Cashman didn’t make this move because he felt they HAD to pick up a pitcher and he didn’t like anyone on the market and felt it would be better to roll the dice here.

      If Igawa puts up Zito’s so-so numbers — the 4-ish ERA and 200 innings mentioned above — is he worth the money?

    2. Pete
      November 29th, 2006 | 1:05 am

      Steve just said in his post that Igawa would be a better 2007 prospect than Unit or Pavano. I believe that puts him at #3, behind Moose and Wang.

      Basically it sounds like we got the Japanese version of what we might have gotten with Zito. We know what Zito would do in this division – get smacked around, hard. At least Igawa would have the benefit of being an unseen commodity to our opponents.

      I think a Gil Meche could round out this rotation nicely, and then Unit’s money could go to one Carlos Zambrano in 2008.

    3. brockdc
      November 29th, 2006 | 1:56 am

      I see very little risk in posting and signing K.I. As a lefty, MPH isn’t quite as critical if he can change speeds, throw a decent out pitch (saw his slider on YouTube and it looked pretty sick), and locate. Think of Glavine, Jamie Moyer, Tommy John, Zito, et. al. If his performance is close to any one of those guys, we’ve got ourselves a solid #3 with no draft pick sacrificed.

      Trust me, with Pavano, Unit, and a 38-year-old #2 in our rotation, the more arms the better. And hopefully, either Clippard, Hughes, or Sanchez will be ready to go by mid-July.

      Also, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a Pavano trade. I couldn’t fathom his value possibly being any lower than it is at this moment. Cashman’s too shrewd for that.

    4. baileywalk
      November 29th, 2006 | 4:03 am

      Boy, how times have changed.

      When the rumors had the bidding for Matsuzaka at 30 million, there was outrage. Steve didn’t think he was worth it, and most asked “How can you pay that much for a pitcher who’s never thrown a single pitch here?”

      And Matsuzaka has ace stuff. Igawa is a back-of-the-rotation guy and suddenly everyone is cool with dropping 26 million to talk to him.

      People were also quite scared about a Zito signing, saying how his average fastball would get belted in the AL East.

      Is Igawa going to be anywhere near as good as Zito?

      Listen, I’m not against this signing and he’ll probably be above-average for at least a year (it will take a while for the league to adjust). But frankly the reactions are a little baffling when put side by side to the Matsuzaka and Zito comments.

      If the Yankees think Igawa is worthy 26 million to talk to, then I guess Matsuzaka really was worth 51.

    5. November 29th, 2006 | 9:01 am

      ~~~When the rumors had the bidding for Matsuzaka at 30 million, there was outrage. Steve didn’t think he was worth it, and most asked “How can you pay that much for a pitcher who’s never thrown a single pitch here?”~~~

      Based on what we know now, about the posting system, do you really think the Yankees are going to pay the full $26 mill?

    6. Raf
      November 29th, 2006 | 9:24 am

      I suppose you could find positives in the fact that he’s young (27), a lefty, and he can strike people out, but the idea of a guy coming here to America with a 88-90 mph fastball scares me. I also don’t like commiting years to anyone right now when we have so many people poised to join the rotation.
      =================
      I’m not worried about velocity or lack thereof. I can think of several pitchers with big fastballs that haven’t done much in the majors.

      “Too much pitching” issues always seem to work themselves out due to age, injury or ineffectiveness.

    7. Raf
      November 29th, 2006 | 9:29 am

      I think a Gil Meche could round out this rotation nicely…
      =====================

      http://ussmariner.com/2006/11/23/gil-meches-thanksgiving-list-plus-idle-speculation/

    8. November 29th, 2006 | 9:30 am

      Cliff at Bronx Banter today makes a great case on how D-May’s numbers are not all that much better than Igawa, FWIW.

    9. Raf
      November 29th, 2006 | 9:33 am
    10. Pete
      November 29th, 2006 | 11:02 am

      So what exactly are you trying to say, Raf? ;-)

    11. November 29th, 2006 | 11:40 am

      Initially I was not happy about the $26,000194 bid.

      I thought it was far too much money. I figured $15M would be ok.

      However, the NYTimes is reporting today that the expected value of the contract is about $4M-$4.5M per year. If that is indeed the case, then even including the posting fee, the deal may wind up cheaper than the mediocrity on the market when considering luxury tax–which I assume the Yankees are doing.

    12. brockdc
      November 29th, 2006 | 1:55 pm

      Baileywalk,

      I’m not thrilled with the Igawa signing. But the Yankees cannot go into the season with a rotation of Wang, Mussina, Unit, Karstens, and Proctor and just expect everything to be okay. They need at least one more league average pitcher to hold the fort until Hughes or Clippard’s ready.

      As has been documented ad nauseum, there are very few options available on the domestic free agent market. Igawa is costly only in terms of the posting fee. If he can be had for pro-rated Lilly money over the course of his contract, without giving up the #1 draft pick, I’m all for it.

    Leave a reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.