Update, Sunday Night: It's being widely reported that Iwakuma will return to Rakuten next season. The Mainichi Shimbun has a piece with quotes attributed to Iwakuma's agent (Don Nomura) as saying "the two sides won't sit down at the negotiating table again" and "after our first proposal, we were thinking we had a compromise through negotiation, but the Athletics seemed to think 'if you can't take this price, you don't have to come here'. That wasn't a condition we could accept."
Meanwhile, Sponichi is saying that Iwakuma was looking for a deal for four years, $30m, but the A's were only offering $3.5 – $3.75 annually. Paraphrasing Sponichi, that's about what Iwakuma has been making in Japan, and he's used to seeing starting pitchers who move to MLB get a big raise relative to their last season in NPB. Such are the perils of the posting, in my opinion.
I thought Rakuten might try to post him again this offseason, but the rules stipulate that under this scenario, the player can't be posted again until November 1 of the following year. By then, Iwakuma should have completed enough service time to qualify for free agency.
Sunday Afternoon: Interesting news from my fellow Bay Area-ian, Susan Slusser: negotiations between Oakland and Hisashi Iwakuma are not going well and the two sides are far apart on a deal. Supposedly, the A's are offering a deal of about fours year, $15m, while Iwakuma's side is looking for about $15m per year. Barry Zito money, to use a particularly poor comparison. Shinya Tsuruta of Chunichi Sports puts negotiations at three years, $20m, which sounds a lot more reasonable.
The news broke yesterday in Japan, while I was taking a day off from writing. Sponichi had the first coverage of the story that I saw, and called the idea that Iwakuma might remain with Rakuten a "worst case scenario." Tsuruta also pointed out that Iwakuma will take part in Rakuten's Fan Appreciation Day on the 23rd, though his participation is qualified with the quote "it's just as the words say, an event to show appreciation to the fans." But the idea he could stay in Sendai is picking up steam. Iwakuma was signed for 2011 at 300-400m yen ($3.6-$4.8m), so I assume he would play for Rakuten under the terms of that contract should he and the A's fail to work out a deal.
What no one seems to be saying is that Iwakuma is leaving a lot of money on the table in pursuing the posting route to the Majors. The posting system, by definition, assigns the player's negotiating rights to a single team, and a large posting fee acts as a dis-incentive for the team to sign the player to a large contract (or rather, the posting fee is only viable if the player can be signed for a below-market rate). If Iwakuma were to return to Rakuten for 2011, barring injury he would be eligible for international free agency after the season. On the open market, I would expect him to command somewhere between $8m and $12m per season, for about three years. So in the end it will be up to Iwakuma to decide if getting to the Majors one year sooner is worth it.