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Yankees Bid for Igawa Just Doesn’t Add Up

The Yankees are known for being Major League Baseball’s biggest spenders, but they’re also known for using their money wisely.  When George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman decide to fork over an amount of money most of us would rather not think about, they usually have a great reason for doing it — i.e. the player will make up for his huge salary with excellent performance on the field.  Today, the Yankees were declared the winners of the bidding for Japanese lefthander Kei Igawa, with a bid of $25Million.  That’s a lot of money, and in this case, it’s not money well spent. 

 

Kei Igawa

The Yankees don’t have many pressing needs this offseason, but one that stands out is the need to sign a starting pitcher; preferably a southpaw.  That was the reasoning behind the Yankees’ bid for Kei Igawa, who was arguably the best lefty remaining on the market.  The bid, as I mentioned earlier, was $25Million, and Igawa is seeking a contract in the neighborhood of 3-years, $18Million.  That means Igawa, if signed by the Yankees, will end up costing $43Million over 3 years. 

While it’s not fair to count the “posting fee” (bid) as part of the total salary for a player, that’s the way most people choose to see it.  The problem with Igawa is that he projects as a #4 starter in the MLB, and some experts have him as low as a #5, or even best suited for a bullpen role.  In effect, the Yankees intend to pay Igawa $14.33M a season to be a bottom-of-the-rotation starter.  That, for comparison, is higher than the 2007-8 salaries for Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang, who are considered the top-2 starters for New York, which is ridiculous. 

 

Daisuke Matsuzaka

The Yankees’ potential contract with Kei Igawa will inevitably be compared to the Red Sox’ deal with their own Japanese superstar, Daisuke Matsuzaka — for the record, I believe this is a horribly unfair comparison to make.  Boston, including its $51.1Million bid on Matsuzaka and his expected deal (which I expect will be in the neighborhood of 4-years for $56M), will be in the hole $107.1M for 4 years of Matsuzaka’s services.  That averages-out to roughly $26.78M per year, which is an obscene amount of money.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s not completely fair to include the posting fee as part of a player’s salary, but since I did it in the case of Igawa, it wouldn’t be right to consider Matsuzaka’s expected contract without the Red Sox enormous bid.  The Red Sox really broke the bank for Matsuzaka, but I’m not convinced that Boston’s decision was worse than New York’s. 

Now, let’s compare the two… 

  • Igawa to the Yankees for 3-years, $43M total  — $14.33M a year
  • Matsuzaka to the Red Sox for 4-years, $107.1M total —$26.78M a year

Kei Igawa (age 27) will cost the Yankees roughly $14M a season to be their #4 starter (we’ll take the optimistic side of his potential for the purposes of this argument).  Daisuke Matsuzaka (age 26) will cost the Red Sox roughly $27M a year to be their #2-3 starter, and eventually the team’s ace (once again, I’m taking the optimistic side).  While both of these are egregious overpayments, I would argue that the Yankees’ decision is worse. 

The Red Sox, if they sign Matsuzaka, will get the best pitcher on the market this offseason, and a potential top-of-the-line ace in a couple of seasons; I see Matsuzaka, if signed, as the heir apparent to Curt Schilling. In other words, Matsuzaka could be of immense value to the Red Sox, just considering his on-field potential (forget about the benefits of having a stake in the Asian market for now).  The Yankees, if they decide to bring in Igawa, will in effect be getting similar value out of him to what they received from Jaret Wright last season — 11 wins and an ERA in the low-to-mid 4.00’s.  As you’ll see in a moment, the Yankees could’ve saved their money and gotten better results from a domestic free agent if those were their expectations for a new starting pitcher. 

If an end-of-the-rotation was truly what the Yankees were seeking out of a free agent starting pitcher this offseason, they could have gone with an experienced MLB veteran such as Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, or Jeff Suppan, paid much less for their services, and expected better results on the field (not to mention that they would’ve avoided the risk of a meltdown caused by the transition from Japanese to American baseball).  I know that money is not a concern for the Yankees, but wasting money is never a good thing, no matter how much of it you have.  While I’m not a fan of the Yankees’ 200+Million payroll, I have long respected the front office decisions of Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner, even though I know that money is a huge advantage for the Bronx Bombers.  Sure, there’ve been flaws in the Yankees’ judgment such as Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, but more often than not, the Yankees spend their money (and lots of it) better than just about any team in baseball.  Signing Kei Igawa would be a glaring exception to that trend of smart spending, and it is more likely than not that it’ll turn into a bad decision. 

Hideki Irabu

Now, I’ll make another wildly unfair comparison; Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa.  Look at the statistics for Irabu and Igawa in their final seasons in Japan, before transitioning to American baseball…

  • Irabu (1996) — 13-8 with a 3.28ERA over 171IP and 219K’s
  • Igawa (2006) — 13-9 with a 3.11ERA over 200IP and 184K’s

Aside from the record and to a degree the ERA, the statistics for Irabu and Igawa aren’t all that similar.  The two are also very different pitchers, and the contrast goes far beyond the fact that Irabu is a righty and Igawa is a lefty.  Irabu projected as an ace in America, with some skeptics (who proved to be right) saying he could be a middle-of-the-rotation starter rather than a premium ace.  Igawa, according to some, could become a top-of-the-rotation starter in America, but most believe he’ll be a bottom-of-the-rotation starter (the pessimists even project that he’ll be demoted to bullpen duty due to the difficulty of pitching in the AL East).  Both Irabu and Igawa were heralded as terrific pitchers coming from Japan to America.  Unfortunately, Irabu’s ace-like qualities were lost in the move.  I tend to believe Kei Igawa’s fate will be the same. 

If the Yankees see Kei Igawa as a #4 starter, their decision to spend $43.3M on him for 3 seasons of work simply doesn’t make sense.  Of course, there is the possibility that Igawa will exceed his expectations and become the ace that Irabu never was.  The likelihood of Igawa turning out to be an Irabu-esque bust however, is much greater.  That much money (no matter how much of it you have to waste) spent on an acquisition covered with so many potential risks, is not well spent; it’s a poor decision, and knowing that this is the Yankees, it just doesn’t add up. 

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6 Responses to “Yankees Bid for Igawa Just Doesn’t Add Up”

  1. You should of waited till both deals were finalized to write this up.

    Both teams spent much less then you projected in the end.

  2. um… buoni, realmente buoni luogo e molto utile;)

  3. MSN I NIIPET
    MSN

  4. I do not believe this

  5. amazon cyber monday…

    […]Yankees Bid for Igawa Just Doesn’t Add Up « Baseballistic[…]…


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