The Washington Nationals didn't bid on 25-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish, but according to reports out of Japan today, the Nats might have interest in another NPB pitcher that won't require an exorbitant posting fee if they do choose to pursue him. The pitcher mentioned in a Daily Sports report translated at Yakubaka.com is 30-year-old Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles' right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma who last year went through the posting proces, was selected by Oakland and failed to reach an agreement with the A's, who bid $19.1 million dollars for the rights to negotiate a deal.
In a 2011 campaign in which Iwakuma missed time with a shoulder injury the 11-year-veteran was (6-7) in 17 starts with a 2.42 ERA, 19 walks (1.44 BB/9) and 90 K's (6.80 K/9) in 119.0 IP. The 6'3'', 190-pound right-hander has had injury issues before which cost him significant time in 2006-07, but when healthy he's put together seasons like a 2008 Eiji Sawamura Award-winning campaign (Japan's Cy Young equivalent) in which he was (21-4) with a 1.87 ERA and 159 K's (7.10 K/9) in 28 games and 201.2 IP.
Seattle Times' baseball writer Larry Stone wrote in an October 2010 article before the pitcher was posted that the right-hander, "... is considered the second-best pitcher in Japan, behind the celebrated Yu Darvish," and the scouts Mr. Stone spoke to for his article entitled, "Japanese hurler Hisashi Iwakuma could draw big interest from MLB teams", described Iwakuma as a ground ball pitcher with good command who features, "... a wicked slider and a superb forkball that he backs up with a passable fastball."
Over the course of his 11-year-career, first with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes who drafted him and then the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles he was traded to after a contract dispute in 2004-2005, Iwakuma is (107-69) with a 3.25 career-ERA, 342 walks (2.0 BB/9) and 1,175 K's (6.86 K/9) in 226 games and 1,541.0 IP. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote that Iwakuma, "... is expected to rank among the elite starters in a free-agent market," this winter in an August '11 profile on the pitcher hiring Paul Cobbe as his agent.
The Daily Sports report translated at Yakubaka.com lists the Nationals as one of four teams along with the A's, Twins and Pirates that have expressed interest in Iwakuma, who reportedly left Japan for the U.S. earlier this week in anticipation of Yu Darvish's situation being sorted out, telling reporters in a Sponichi article translated at Yakubaka.com that, "Things are moving on [Yu Darvish] so teams will probably begin moving on other pitchers." The Nationals were also mentioned as a team with interest in Iwakuma in a December 10th Nikkan Sports article that listed them alongside the Mariners, Twins and A's.