Yankees Trying to Salvage Kei Igawa

According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, in an effort to salvage even a little bit of the $46 million they invested in him, the Yankees will use Kei Igawa strictly as a left handed reliever in spring training and could even use him in that spot once the season starts, even if he’s in the minor leagues.

The Yankees have to do something with Igawa. After paying a $26 million posting fee the Yankees signed him to a five-year $20 million contract and so far they’ve only gotten 71.2 bad innings out of him. They either need to trade him for something or figure out a role that works for him.

A role as a lefty reliever could be right up his alley too, especially if he’s used only against lefties. In his brief time in the majors he never really established himself as someone who does better against lefties than righties, but last year his splits in the minors were pretty impressive. In 45 innings worth of at bats against left handers in 2009, Igawa had a 0.80 WHIP and a 2.54 FIP. He also did an exceptional job in holding them to only two home runs.

The problem is that it’s only a small sample size and it is hard to extend it beyond last season because in 2008 he was actually better against right handed hitters, but in 2007 he did alright against lefties. So he has flip-flopped and that makes it hard to be certain that if the Yankees use him as a lefty-on-lefty reliever he would be effective.

My guess is that even as a strict lefty reliever, Igawa still won’t make the roster out of spring training. There really is no guarantee that he’s going to be successful in this role and both the manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman are smart enough to realize that spring stats are deceiving. Both are going to want to see him have some sustained success in the role before they drink the kool-aid.

The thing in his favor is that Girardi likes carrying two lefty relievers on the roster and has said that his preference would be to do so again. That likely means that Boone Logan has the edge, but if there is an injury Igawa could be in a position to take advantage.

One thing is for certain though, the Yankees have to get something out of Igawa. Whether that is an effective lefty reliever or even the rights to keep outfielder Jamie Hoffmann who would have to go back to the Dodgers if they don’t keep him on the 25-man roster, they have to get something.

Where do the readers stand? Give Igawa a chance as a reliever or trade him for a bucket of balls?

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10 Responses to Yankees Trying to Salvage Kei Igawa

  1. I've been saying that (play him or trade him) for a long time now. Enough's enough!

  2. You are absolutely right. It doesn't make sense to hang on to him just to make Scranton better. I think even if he couldn't hack it as a reliever in the AL East, he's got to be worth something to a NL team. You wouldn't be able to convince me that he couldn't be at least somewhat successful in San Diego.

  3. I am strongly on the bucket of balls side, guys. BUCKET OF BALLS. The guy has been a total bust, and clearly seemed intimidated by the atmosphere and competition in the MLB. He doesn't have it. Let the Yankees relieve themselves of the problem by dealing him; the sooner the better.

    I have about as much use for Igawa as I do for an extra hole drilled in the top of my skull.

  4. I really hope Cashman writes a book some day. I'd really like to know what was going on behind the scenes that offseason when they signed Igawa. I find it amazing that they spent so much money on a player this bad. I mean, even Carl Pavano made sense at the time. What was it about Igawa that made them think this was a good idea.

  5. Mike S. says:

    To one up, Boston? But it didn't work. After all, Igawa had the awards from Japan. A Japanese CYA (I forget if he also won the Japanese version of the MVP). Boston had just beaten out the Yanks by blowing away the field for Dice-K. So the Yanks were going to take 2nd best?

    Excursions into the Japanese market, save for Matsui, have proven fruitless. Irabu, Igawa, and how many remember Kats Maeda? http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.c

    The only Japanese pitcher I would concern myself with right now as a Yankees fan? Should he make himself available? Yu Darvish.

    • I'd rather leave Yu Darvish to some other team. He has Dice-K written all over him.

      • Mike S. says:

        Before last year's disaster, Matsuzaka's numbers weren't bad. Not great, but not bad. 15-12, 4.40; 18-3, 2.90; decent. Maybe not worth the money and not ace-like, but a decent 3 or 4.

        The thing about Darvish is, he actually is almost two full months younger than Phil Hughes. Both are 23.

        I'm leery regarding Japanese pitchers, however. Darvish would command the "right to sign" money and the big contract similar or more than Dice-K got. Incomplete stats have Darvish 63-24 in Japan, 2.20 ERA. Of course those numbers inflate greatly over here. Impressive, but how does he translate (and I'm not talking speech). Also, how is his personality? Would he fit (like Matsui did) or would he be a prima donna. That I don't know.

        But I wouldn't concern myself with anyone but Darvish.

        Is there a line on Darvish's 2009 season? All I see is a line from Wikipedia, which only goes to July 31st. It stated 15-5, 1.73 for the season. I don't know if he had any line after July 31st.

        • Mike S. says:

          P.S. That "Right to talk to him money" regarding Japanese players? Kind of giving a girl flowers and a ton of candy for her phone number…and just her phone number. With no guarantee that she'll agree to a date when you do call her.

        • Baseball Cube has his stats and it looks like that's just when the season ends.

          Keep something in mind though:
          Kei Igawa at age 22: 14-9, 2.49 ERA, 8 CG, 4 SH, 209.2 IP, 206 K, 53 BB, 15 HR
          Yu Darvish at age 22: 15-5, 1.73 ERA, 8 CG, 2 SH, 182 IP, 167 K, 45 BB, 9 HR

          It seems like their numbers are pretty comparable. Igawa had more K/9, but he gave up more homeruns (which is probably the difference in ERA). Otherwise everything is about the same.

          I know it's only one year and probably not a large enough sample size, but I'm just saying. I don't trust pitchers from Japan, I don't really trust the hitters either. I mean, Matsui hit 50 homeruns one year.

          *Darvish's stats: http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/D/Yu-Darvi
          *Igawa's stats: http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/I/Kei-Igaw

  6. Mike S. says:

    Exactly. Japanese players are like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

    Their ballparks are smaller. But then their hitters aren't, for the most part, Godzilla. You aren't facing lineups stacked with Pujols's, A-Rod's, Manny's, etc.

    Darvish is intriguing because of his age and success. The WBC is the only other place to compare what he could do in MLB.

    Intriguing, yes. A gamble, yes.

    I do wonder if the same could be said for Cuban defectors. Contreras, obviously, didn't succeed as a Yankee. El Duque did. Andy Morales, no.

    It then remains to be seen what Adeinis Hechevarria, the 21 year old SS rumored to be in the Yankees sights, can do. Another intrigue and another gamble?