Monday, January 19, 2009

What the Hell Were You Thinking? Kei Igawa Edition

*Over the next couple of weeks, Jorge Says No! will take an in depth look at some of the worst contracts in baseball. We'll evaluate why the player was signed, what went wrong, and future implications of the contract. Behind every bone head decision, there has to be a reason for it...right?*

Oh Yankee knew this one was coming. If there was ever a contract that defines what the hell were you thinking...this is it. Over the past two seasons, the Yankees have gotten nothing but frustrations and struggles from Igawa, who the Yankees had high expectations for when they signed him in 2007.

Why Sign Igawa: The answer to this one is two fold.

On one hand, the Yankees believed that Igawa could be successful in the big leagues as a middle of the rotation starter. Igawa had been a very successful starter in Japan by winning 86 games in 8 seasons while compiling a 3.15 ERA. Confident that those numbers would translate in the big leagues, Yankees GM Brian Cashman posted $26 million bucks to negotiate with Igawa and eventually signed him to a 4 year/$20 million dollar contract.

On the other hand, the Yankees were probably motivated to sign Igawa because the arch rival Red Sox had just signed their own Japanese import, Daisuke Matsuzaka to a 6 year/$52 million dollar contract. In addition to the $52 million big ones, the Red Sox also big a ridiculous $51 million just to negotiate with Matsuzaka. Oh yeah, did I mention that the Red Sox outbid the Yankees for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka? This undoubtedly pissed off Yankee management, especially the Steinbrenners.

So what did the Yankees do after missing out on Matsuzaka? Go after Igawa of course, who they believed was the next best option and gave them a stud Japanese pitcher to match up against their arch rival.

What Went Wrong: Ummm, everything. Whoever made the decision to make a serious push for Igawa should be fired...if they haven't been already.

The $46 million dollar bust has been a shell of his Japanese self with the Yankees. Igawa, the former strikeout king in Japan, has not shown the ability to strike out hitters on the big stage and lacks the ability to keep the ball down. Remarkably, in 2007, Igawa surrendered 15 home runs is just 67 innings. Yikes.

Furthermore, Igawa is simply way too hittable. He can get hitters out with his good pure stuff, but the location on his pitches has been terrible during his time with the Yankees. Obviously it is impossible to get hitters out when you cannot locate and Igawa is living proof of that.

Future Implications: Folks, these are the Yankees. They can afford to take risks like this because they have a $180-$200 million dollar payroll. Igawa's contract will not prevent them from going after free agents or hinder them from making yet another big move. Because when it comes down to it, if the Yankees want something, they will probably get it.

So what can the failure of the Igawa contract change for the Yankees? Perhaps now, as we have seen this off season (Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira), the Yankees will make a stronger push to acquire the top guys instead of settling with pitchers who they think might be successful. How different would the last two years have been if the Yankees had signed Matsuzaka instead of Igawa? The difference is enormous.

With their vast resources, there is no reason why the Yankees should have to simply settle on probable back end of the rotation starting pitchers.

Lesson Learned: Go big, or don't go at all.



Jason @ IIATMS said...

why do I feel sick every time I see that picture? He's our Ed Whitson of the Aughts.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Hi, I'm new to the blog, and I like it so far.

Anyway, didn't the Yankees tinker with his mechanics when he came over? That's a lousy reason for his performance, but that could be a reason for the loss of command.

Josh said...

Jason: The image of Igawa is indeed a frightening one. Isn't it amazing that he's only made 14 starts in two years?

theMARk: Welcome! Hope you enjoy the site!

From what I have read, the Yankees have tried to work with Igawa on his mechanics and he actually performed well this season is AAA. But it looks like the Yanks have no confidence that he will be able to translate his AAA success in the majors.

Here is a great article that discusses Igawa's mechanical flaws. Enjoy!

thanks for the comments.