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Monday, December 6, 2010
A's fail to sign Japan's Hisashi Iwakuma

Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics failed to reach agreement on a contract with pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma during the allotted 30-day negotiating period that ended Monday, sending him back to his Japanese club.

It became apparent late last month the sides were far off in their negotiations and had all but ended discussions. The A's made the formal announcement Monday night.

Oakland won bidding rights to Iwakuma in early November and had 30 days to reach agreement on a contract. The pitcher wanted a total package comparable to the $126 million, seven-year deal signed by San Francisco Giants left-hander Barry Zito before the 2007 season when the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner left the A's for the other side of the bay.

Oakland's bid was accepted by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Pacific League under the bidding treaty between Major League Baseball and the Japanese commissioner's office.

"We would like to express our appreciation to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the opportunity to negotiate with Mr. Iwakuma and we regret that an agreement could not be reached by today's deadline," A's general manager Billy Beane said in a statement. "In this instance, the player was in a unique situation, being only one year away from free agency, and we fully respect and understand his position."

The 29-year-old right-hander was 10-9 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 games this season with four complete games and one shutout. He struck out 153 and walked 36 in 201 innings.

In 10 professional seasons, Iwakuma is 101-62 with a 3.32 ERA and 46 complete games in 209 appearances.

Japanese media had reported that Oakland made a four-year proposal worth $15.25 million. In terms of annual salary, it is equal to what Iwakuma made with the Eagles of Japan's Pacific League.

Iwakuma recently said if the negotiations remain stalled, then "the Athletics really didn't want me."

Without Iwakuma, who had been penciled in as a possible fifth starter, the A's have a spot in their rotation that could go to left-hander Josh Outman. He missed last year recovering from Tommy John surgery but made a strong impression in the instructional league this fall.

The A's stayed in the division chase until late in the season -- losing out to the AL champion Texas Rangers -- and finished 81-81 for second place in the AL West. That was despite using the disabled list 23 times, two shy of the franchise record set in 2008.