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What's Next For Igawa?

by Patrick Newman (Jul 28, 2008)

Kei Igawa has been in the news a bit this last week, first because of his rumored inclusion in a trade for Jarrod Washburn, later for his removal from the Yankee's 40-man roster. Igawa responded by pitching a solid game for Scranton, winning his 10th game in 3A this year. Others reacted differently.

Hanshin Tigers team president Minami gave Igawa a little tough love in the Japanese press.

"At the stage, we have no plans of re-acquiring Igawa"

"This isn't a half-hearted world. This is a world where you have to fight hard, and if the results aren't there that's too bad. He just has to do his best."

Reactions in the Yankee's blogosphere range from sympathetic to brutal, but everyone seems to agree that moving him would be better for everyone. I did a little research and found a clip of him getting 3A batters out and, more interestingly, this scouting report that breaks down why he might be struggling. The writer hypothesizes that Igawa's mechanics make it hard for him to get the ball down in the zone.

I saw plenty of Igawa during the 2001-3 seasons when he was at his peak with Hanshin. His out pitch was his changeup, and when he had command of it he was really tough on NPB batters. When he didn't he was more hittable. He didn't perform as well from 2004-6, and I was surprised that he commanded a $26M posting fee, and in retrospect, I think the Yankees were expecting too much.

So, where might Igawa wind up? I don't see him going to the Mariners, both because of his performance uncertainties and perceived chemistry problems with the Japanese players that are already there. I also happened across a pre-posting scouting report that indicates that the Mariners might not have been too keen on him in the first place either.

A better destination would be in the National League, where there's no DH and the lineups might not be quite as deep as in the AL East. St. Louis has an excellent history with pitcher reclamation projects and could use some depth in the rotation. Another option is Atlanta; they have a good track record with reclamation types as well. San Diego has a pitcher-friendly home park, and is comfortably situated on the west coast. And I think Florida would take a flyer on him if the price were right.

Igawa has a ways to go to prove himself as a MLB-caliber starter. In the right environment I think he's got a shot but that probably won't happen in the NYC.


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