Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Texas Rangers, not the Seattle Mariners as previously speculated, may be the high bidder for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.
According to Rosenthal and many others, Iwakuma is considered the second best pitcher currently pitching in Japan. This past year for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, Iwakuma went 10-9 while posting a 2.82 ERA. The 29 year old right hander threw over 201 innings and struck out only 153.
Iwakuma's American exposure began in 2009 as a member of the Japanese World Baseball Classic team. One American League scout said of Iwakuma:
"He would step into any rotation in the majors right now; he might be the No. 1 for half the teams in the majors," an American League scout said. "He's very impressive across the board."
Iwakuma, according to Baseball America, has a fastball that sits around 89-90. His effectiveness comes off of a "nasty" split-finger fastball and a "solid-to-plus" slider.
The Mainichi Daily News speculates that the highest bid will be between $16-17 million dollars, something the Kyodo News also believes. The team with the highest bid will have exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with Iwakuma. His Japanese team, Rakuten, can reject the bid if it's not high enough for them, meaning Iwakuma would have to play out the remainder of his contract in Japan.
The folks at Lone Star Ball have more good information on Iwakuma, so be sure to check out this thread for more information and discussion.