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.