When the Oakland A's won the rights to Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, it was seen as an aggressive move by Billy Beane's front office, and an indication that the team was gearing up to make a run in 2011. But now things have taken an unexpected turn, as contract talks between the A's and Iwakuma have broken off, and Iwakuma appears set to return to his Japanese team for the 2011 season.
After winning Iwakuma's rights, the A's reportedly offered low contracts, using Colby Lewis and Kei Igawa as comparisons. Iwakuma and his agent responded by pointing to pricier players like Hiroki Kuroda and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and talks didn't advance from there. The A's didn't budge, and negotiations didn't proceed.
There remains some time for the two sides to work something out, but judging by the recent Twitter history of Iwakuma's agent Don Nomura, that isn't going to happen, and Iwakuma will return to Japan. If and when that happens, the A's will be returned their posting fee - $18 million - and Iwakuma will be on track to become a free agent a year from now. As a free agent, he would no longer have to go through the posting process.