Can we drop the “But Irabu and Igawa failed” line of reasoning?

Players are investments, pure and simple. Like investing, we root for our investments to “win” for us. Some pan out, some fizzle. You and I hope to make some sound investments to help cover those that failed, and at the end of the day, we strive to be better off than when we started. Prospects resemble the penny stocks that we hope explode and make us all rich/successful, but really, most don’t. The top free agents are those larger equities who have already enjoyed a run up in price and we’re hoping their stock still has some legs left for us to participate in. Some do, some don’t. It happens.

If you bought a stock ten years ago and it failed, or at least didn’t live up to your expectations, does that mean you no longer invest in the stock market? Well, maybe if your risk profile changes due to age or other circumstance, but otherwise you continue to seek the best assets to invest in. Yu Darvish is no different.

The Yanks reportedly made a “modest” bid on Darvish. If they made a modest bid because they (ownership, management, scouts) did not believe Darvish’s skills will transfer, so be it. That’s a business decision made with the facts you believe in. Personally, I disagree, but I’m not part of the front office.

If the Yanks modest offer was made out of fear of failing, which I truly hope is not the case, then this is a sign that scares me. Irabu and Igawa represent sunk costs, dammit. The Yanks are one of the only, if not THE only, team who can best absorb risk and financial mistakes.

This whole $189 million thing just feels real and perhaps this is the reason for the sudden frugality. However, given the fact that the posting fee would not count against the Yanks’ total payroll, this is precisely the kind of investment that this team should make.

Will/Has fear prevented the team from putting their best bid out there? I sure hope not.

About @Jason_IIATMS

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

34 thoughts on “Can we drop the “But Irabu and Igawa failed” line of reasoning?

  1. If they didn't make a big enough bid, evidently they didn't want him; all I can do is HOPE that they know something I don't, or have something hidden up their sleeves.

    As you say, avoiding Yu because other Japanese pitchers flopped leads to other conclusions; since Pavano was a bust, they can no longer hire any Caucasian free agent pitchers. (Actually, you can make the analogy exact – both Pavano AND Burnett were of European ancestry – obviously, European pitchers just don't hold up.) I'm not sure what Javy's ethnicity is, but I sure never want another pitcher like him on the Yankees – cross them off, too.

    What's left?

    If the Yankees don't get Yu, all that's left is to play the sour grapes card. And hope something comes up or someone steps up.

    • Yankees are almost certainly not getting Yu. I really wanted him, and thought that for this teams long term plans he actually became almost a necessity but rumors say the Blue Jays bid 48 million. That is most likely more than the Yankees did.

  2. If your not going to put in a bid that you think will award you the player why do so anyway? To say to the fans "hey we tried!" Don't rub BS under my nose and tell me its chocolate.

    As far as the Irabu and Igawa failed so why sign another Japanese pitcher who will probably fail line of thinking, its just wrong. Its wrong, its bad for business, and quite frankly racist. I am a white guy but even still this reeks of double standard to me. Yankees have gotten burned by Jarrett Wright, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, and AJ Burnett. Should we never sign a white pitcher?

    If they aren't going after a player who makes sense in every single possible way because of the past failures of players with a similar skin color and language, well hell man, thats just messed up.

    • It's not because people are racist. It is because the games and the way pitchers are trained in Japan differ than in the States. Frankly, a Caucasian pitching in Japan since youth will (hopefully) viewed in a same way..

      • I know that you understand that Jacques but I feel the MSM articles and some comments I read about this kid sound a bit like bigotry. The newspapers never say Darvish might struggle because they pitch every 6th day instead of 5, or the lack of pitch count. They simply imply well his fellow countrymen haven't had success coming over so why should this one be any different. Just seems like irresponsible journalism.

    • Well the posting process is blind, so even if they have little faith that their bid will land the rights to the player, I would have no problem with them making it if it truly reflects what their assessment of the player's value is. Without knowing what other teams are willing to bid, there's no reason not to make a, say, $25 million bid if that's the assessment of value. And without knowing their thought process, it'd be impossible to tell whether the lower bid was reflective of a good faith evaluation, or a ruse to pull over on the fans. How Darvish will adapt to MLB play is to me a complete unknown. I with the Yanks would take a risk on him, but I can't fault them if they have evaluated him and made an appropriate bid.

  3. I'm tired of the thought /narrative of gaming the luxury tax system…. yes the posting fee doesn't count toward the luxury tax but the savings is not that substantial.

    He's still going to get 10mil per after the posting process? And if he just hit the open market (with no posting fee) he'd get what 15-18mil per? You are talking about effectively hiding 5-8 mil/year through the posting fee… at max tax 40% of that is a 2-3mil/yr type savings over the life of that contract…. substantial, but still relative pocket change for NY, basically less than the Girardi/Cashman 2nd LOOGY fascination tax.

    If that 5-8mil per counting toward payroll is the.difference between triggering 40% or not, then yes it is a more substantial impact but unless the Yankees are under 189mil (which I still don't see happening), the whole luxury tax argument is a bit overdone and relative peanuts… the problem is people are looking at it as a lump sum of 40 mil (or whatever the posting fee estimated you want to use)… if spent on a conventional FA that 40mil is spread over 5 years or so (or whatever the length of contract he ends up signing). Even if you view Yu Darvish as a 20mil/yr type FA and he ends up with 10mil/yr with the posting fee accoubting for the rest, your still only talking a 4mil tax/yr savings. (40% of that 10mil that is 'buried" in the posting fee)

    Not sure if I was clear, but the luxury tax avoidance is a much smaller effect than people realize and is only a major impact if it is the ultimate difference between going over or under the payoll tax when 2014 hits.

    • It's not the payroll tax rate reduction, it's the $40 million revenue sharing refund they'll get for being under the tax threshold.

      • But him being the difference between being under and over is a very tight window. He's going to probably get 10-12mi/yr (without the posting fee); a pitcher of his quality on the market is what, 15-18mil/yr?

        So you are basically talking about that 5-8mil gap being THE reason they either are under or over the 189mil threshold. That to me doesn't justify taking on any additional substantial risk or overpaying… heck that potential revenue sharing refund is the posting fee (probably less when you consider NPV).

        So basically they can spend 40+mil now to POTENTIALLY (but by no means guaranteed) save 40mil 3 years from now? While it's not my money that doesn't seem like a great strategy especially if (when?) 2014 rolls around and they are over that threshold and don't realize that saving. Basically he should be looked at like any other FA….. look at the total cost/yr and decide if he's worth it. These discount/future savings/worth additional risk over a normal FA arguments are highly speculative and not as significant as folks make them out to be.

  4. You are right that there isn't a large saving in salary against the cap, but any money saved is good when the Yankees are trying to improve a team with lots of high priced veterans. Another way signing Darvish would have been nice would be the fact that the Yankees can hold onto their draft pick, which just got a lot more valuable under the new CBA.

  5. I don't really agree with the whole "The Yankees are making the wrong decision about Darvish due to their experience with Igawa and Irabu." I see the point about how you can't write off all of NPB due to a few bad experiences. This has been rehashed many times already, but how many NPB players have panned out well? Outside of Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, in my opinion, there hasn't been much to come out of Japan worth talking about since the Nintendo Entertainment system was produced.

    All NPB players play NPB ball with the NPB rules. That is a common thread for all of them. I think it is understandable to be wary of NPB players.

    But even with all that said, I STILL think the Yankees should have pursued Darvish due to reasons others have already said (no loss of draft pick, posting fee not counting towards payroll, etc). A small part of me thinks that Cashman is blowing smoke up our ass by playing down their interest. But, my gut feeling says that they made a modest bid just so that either

    A) maybe no one else outbids them and they get to negotiate on the cheap or
    B) just to appease the fans by saying "Hey, we tried!"

  6. I wanted Yu but nine figures is a lot for a pitcher with no MLB experience, regardless of his nation of origin, and regardless of how much of that counts toward the tax.

  7. I usually don't respond in comments but I saw this article this morning and it kinda sums up my views on the whole Darvish thing.

    I know it's easy and justifiable to jump on the conventional wisdom of the major media covering sports but in this case I'm a bit on their side, but just a bit. I see the Darvish issue as two seemingly related, but actually unrelated issues.

    1. Few Japanese pitchers have come to MLB and exhibited any sustained success. Nomo obviously (he predated the posting system, right?) and then guys who either stuck around (Ohka #2 in bWAR for pitchers!) or relievers (Saito, Sasaki, Okajima etc). It's not just Irabu and Igawa and, IMO, it's understandable that people would be skittish.

    2. By any measure, there has never been a pitcher like Darvish to come from Japan to MLB.*

    Obviously Darvish isn't a sure thing and I certainly agree that how good or bad Kei Igawa was has no bearing on what success Darvish will have. But since 1995, Japanese pitchers have generally been anonymous or disappointing so I understand why people would choose to disregard his potential success based on where he's coming to MLB from. Not agree, but understand.

    *I've seen some articles showing three-year stats of pitchers prior to their jump but I don't know how reliably comparable NPL stats from 10, 20 years ago are to now. Is there a "jWAR" stat out there? :-)

  8. It's not that because those two japanese pitchers were bad this one will be. Those two pitchers are a warning that there's a ton of risk involved with laying out $120m (salary plus posting fee) on a pitcher who is an unknown in the states. The game is different over there, they pitch a different work load to predominantly AAAA hitters with a different baseball. There are just too many unknowns to lay out that kind of money. Irabu and Igawa have merely driven that point home.

    Obviously Darvish could break the mold and be a dominant pitcher (although if he's on Toronto I hope he's Daisuke 2.0), but there are better/safer ways to spend that kind of money. For instance they could sign a proven Major League pitcher in Roy Oswalt or Hiroki Kuroda and roll the dice with Cespedes (which makes it so you can trade Swisher for a pitcher) and still have $60+ million left over to use going forward. Those are the better moves to make.

    • You wanna roll the dice on Cespedes? A 26 year old (same as Darvish) that has never played above an A-ball talent league? For 30+ million on a major league deal? But you're too scared to dish for Darvish, a guy who has flat dominated a league that is better than AAA? Cespedes has not even been scouted, because american scouts are shot on sight in Cuba. The team knows infinitely more about darvish than they do about Cespedes!

      Silly. Absolutely Silly.

      • Yeah, Cespedes is a much bigger gamble than Darvish and his projected upside is good but not great. The track record for Cuban defectors isn't exactly a sterling one.

        That said, I'm not sure I agree that NPBL is "better than AAA". I'm sure the top Japanese talent is at that level, but the overall quality of the league is another story. Remember, NPBL severely limits the number of foreign players that are allowed which means they're drawing on a much smaller population of players than North American pro ball which basically admits all comers (subject to negotiated limitations as with NPBL).

        Darvish has dominated NPBL but according to what I've read, the big spike in his numbers this past season was, at least in part, attributable to a league-wide depression in offense due to the introduction of a new ball that was very pitcher friendly. So, what I see is a guy who has put up good to very good numbers against opposition ranging from AA to AAAA but we have to adjust those numbers for the level of competition, equipment differences and workload.

        I'm not saying I wouldn't take Darvish over Cespedes – I would. But I'm not sure I'd take either of them unless I really had to at the prices they can command.

        • You're gambling half the money with Cespedes compared with Darvish. Half at absolute most. All things being equal, of course I'd rather have Darvish. But signing Cespedes for half opens up a lot of possibilities. Swisher becomes expendable, sign a stop gap proven SP, save $60 million. Seems like a no brainer.

          • Fair point. But if Cespedes turns out to be Willy Mo Pena (there is a non-negligible possibility of this) then you either can't trade Swisher or, if you've already pulled the trigger, then you have to replace Cespedes. Swisher provides good value for a fair price. Replacing him is fixing something that isn't really broken. Besides, most teams looking to trade for pitchers want prospects like Montero or Yonder Alonso (who just got traded for Matt Latos) not 8-figure guys like Swisher who is going to be a FA.

            So, no. It doesn't seem like a no-brainer to me.

          • Why sign a 26 year old Cespedes for 60 million when you can get Jorge Soler for a fraction of that price and he is 19. Do you think a 60 million dollar man is going to play the bench? What do you really think the trade value of Nick Swisher is? Reports say Jorge Soler would have been a top 5 pick in this years draft and compares to Bubba Starling.

            Even more so, the trickle down effect. If you sign Soler and in a few years either him, Slade Heathcott, and/or Mason Williams pan out, you don't have to invest tons of money in Granderson and can trade him and let one of the in house options who have been working their way up the farm take over. If Soler is a bust, hes a bust no big deal. If Cespedes is a bust, thats 60 million down the drain, he occupies a roster spot, and replaces an already proven highly effective player.

            Bottom line, signing Jorge Soler seems like a no-brainer to me.

          • Ummm .. Michael – I'm not the guy who wants to sign Cespedes. If I'm not mistaken we're in complete agreement about Cespedes and Swisher's trade value.

          • You're not hurting my point at all. You can sign both Cespedes and Soler and a gap starter for half of what it's going to take for Darvish. That's the point I'm making. As far as Cespedes maybe being a bust, that's the risk. But he needs 2.5 fWAR a year to be worth 50 million on the open market for 5 years, and that's definitely a realistic possibility. Obviously, I'll defer to the scouts on what they think he can do, but it's an easier number to hit then you think (That's what Jayson Weth was worth last year at .230/.330/.389).

            As far as Swisher's trade value goes, I fully acknowledge he's not going to get some stud prospects back. But you can definitely package him to a team that needs offense and get a decent SP back or a solid prospect or two, think guys in the 150-200 range of prospects. And then you save $10 million.

            The whole point of my post is that the Yankees can have so much more with half the money. More players, more talent, more options. You cannot fault them at all for not laying it out on Darvish. Considering SI is reporting the winning bid is for more then what the Sox posted for Daisuke, it's impossible to get on the Yankees about this.

          • I'm not faulting them for not getting Darvish. I personally would stay away from both him and Cespedes. I do think you're overestimating what Swisher could bring back in a trade given that he's headed for free agency .And if you trade him you still have to replace him. It's unlikely Cespedes will be able to step right into the majors he will most likely spend most of 2012 in the minors so the idea of using him to replace Swisher doesn't work at all because of the timing.

  9. Very sophomoric analogy, Jason. Japanese pitchers aren't a random assortment of penny stocks. These guys have real similarities, even if they are different ages and throw different types of pitches. They come from the same system. Igawa and Irabu are not sunken costs in the business sense: rather, they were bad investments, even if they seemed like worthwhile bets at the time. If the Yankees are hesitant to bid on Darvish perhaps it's because they're rightfully weary of throwing good money after bad.

    • I never called the Japanese players penny stocks. Prospects are the penny stocks of this analogy.

      If the are hesitant to bid on Darvish because, evaluated independently of the Igawa/Irabu sunk costs, so be it. But to be hesitant BECAUSE of the Irabu/Igawa sunk costs is folly

  10. Jason, your point is well taken but I think it's the specter of Dice-K rather than Irabu or Igawa that's got the Yankees spooked. I'm pretty sure they think they dodged a giant bullet on that deal and are worried that they cannot really trust their evaluation of Darvish. They may be acting with undue caution but the Yankees seem to have rebooted themselves into "safe mode" with the advent of the new CBA and the crap-shoot nature of the post-season. After all, the Rangers were one out from winning the WS with a medium level starting rotation and the Cardinals won with one stud (Carpenter) a good but not dominating #2 (Garcia) and not much else while the Phillies with Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt were hitting the links the same time the Yankees were.

    • I'm not saying Darvish will definitely pay off, but rather, to not bid because of prior failures is a mistake. Evaluate each decision independently, that's all.

      If the organization decides that it's best not to bid for whatever reason, so be it.

      • But they did bid, what they felt was a reasonable sum. They are correct to be hesitant. It's not just Igawa and Irabu, but Dice K too. Someone said Japanese baseball would be AAAA. I am not so sure it isn't about AA. Nomo was great his 1st two seasons, mediocre after that. Matsui was a 1 dimensional player, but he was old when he came over. Ichiro is overrated. Great BA but marginal OBP as a speed leadoff hitter. I'm not saying they're horrible, but certainly not worth the kind of money it cost the Sox to get Dice-K>

  11. Well it doesn't much matter now does it? Seems like the Yankees will be finding out very soon how good this kid is going to be, and several times a year.

  12. I don't get this one bit. Speaking from the sabermatrically naive point of view, aren't/weren't the Yankees pursuing a Japanese pitcher as we speak (Kuroda)? When not injured wasn't Dice-K at the least an average to above average pitcher in a brutal division for pitchers????? This narrative boggles the mind.

  13. Great piece Jason. I agree wholeheardely. Nick Cafardo made a comment the other day about Toronto (supposedly) winning the Darvish bidding. He expressed that John Farrell might not be thrilled about working with Darvish considering the struggles he had with Matsuzaka. While it's fair to be concerned about the change in culture and conditioning methods, Carfardo's comment was basically like saying "All asian people look alike." That's not only incorrect, but incredibly unfair. To assume all players of a specific descent will act in the same manner upon coming to the majors is both overly simplistic and narrow-minded. The same is true for Darvish and Igawa/Irabu. Those making such remarks should be ignored on general principle.

  14. He will be an outright free agent in 2 years. He is making $6.5 million this year in Japan, so why give up $50 million in his mlb value to a third party for an extra few million over 2 years? If he plays out his 2 years in Japan, he loses less than $10 million in the short term, still makes a crap-ton of dough, and stands to get an mlb contract on the order of 5/85 rather than 5/50. If I am Darvish, I don't even consider moving over this year.

    • Agreed. I think he has a lot of leverage in the negotiation if he wants it . He could easily walk away and come back next year and still be in major demand.. and if he walks this year over contract price, it means teams lower the bids knowing they have to put more money toward his salary. And if he walked away again, he'd be in HUGE demand as a 27 yr(?) old pitcher with no posting process.

      It's a question of how badly he wants to be in MLB (or wants the security of a longer term deal), but given his age he has tremendous leverage….