Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Kei Igawa

Looks like we won the bid on Japan's lefty Kei Igawa. It took 26 million dollars.

I'm not a big fan of bringing pitchers over from Japan. However, this is not neccessarily a bad move. Let's take a look at it.

Igawa is not D-Mat, but he isn't as far away as you might think. He has been a consistently excellent pitcher in Japan - putting up a 2.97 ERA in 2006 in 209 innings, striking out 194 (which led the league), while walking 49. Prior to 2006, he posted similar numbers, with a career ERA of 3.30, a BB/9 ratio of 2.74, and a K/9 ratio 8.64. Very solid numbers in a league which has a level of competition somewhere between AA and AAA.

He is 27 years old. He throws 88-90 with excellent control and a 72 mph changeup and a decent curveball. Nothing special, but he isn't terrible either. I am always weary of pitchers from Japan because they pitch on 5 days rest instead of 4. Igawa has always pitched a ton of innings throughout his career, but will he adjust to the shorter rest?

Why could this be a good signing? Well, Igawa doesn't have a lot of leverage in contract talks. He can either stay in Japan or go to the Yankees, and he isn't a free agent until after his 30th birthday. I can't imagine that he gets paid more than 1-2 million. The Yankees will probably offer him a 3-4 year deal at 6 million per or so. The 26 million dollar posting fee is a lot, but at least it doesn't count toward the luxery tax.

I wouldn't have made the move, but Igawa isn't going to be significantly better or worse than someone like Randy Wolf or Ted Lilly, and Igawa will come cheaper when all is said and done than them. I just wish that the Yankees would trust their farm.

This also might be a signal about Randy Johnson's health. If Johnson were to be healthy, the Yankees would have all five 2007 rotation spots filled, with Wang, Mussina, Johnson, Pavano, and Igawa. We have too many pitching prospects at the AAA level not to leave one spot open for them in Spring Training. Maybe the Yankees will just eat Johnson's contract and leave him on the DL for the year.