Golden Eagles get their ace Iwakuma


Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma was granted his wish Wednesday in a cash deal with the newly formed Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Orix Buffaloes club president Takashi Koizumi said.

“Unless one of the parties relented, this would have a detrimental effect on pro baseball, Orix and Iwakuma’s future. Orix club owner Yoshihiko Miyauchi made the final decision (to allow the deal),” Koizumi said.

Iwakuma, a former pitcher for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, had refused to play for the club created from the merger between the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave, and had reached a stalemate on his demand to be traded after four rounds of talks with Koizumi.

The 23-year-old was one of 25 protected players picked from Kintetsu and Orix, despite his wish to be left off the list for an opportunity to be selected by Rakuten in the distribution draft Nov. 8.

Iwakuma was adamant that Koizumi live up to his word during labor talks in September that he would sincerely listen to the desires of the players involved in the merger regarding their future.

Late last week, Iwakuma decided to break off further negotiations with Orix and enlist the help of the players’ association to act as an intermediary in hopes of changing teams.

In his fourth season this year, Iwakuma led the Pacific League with 15 wins.

In other news, Yomiuri Giants infielder Hiroki Kokubo re-signed on Wednesday for an annual salary of 240 million yen, giving him a 30 million yen pay raise for 2005, club sources said.

Kokubo, who was traded from the Daiei Hawks after missing the entire 2003 regular season with an injured right knee, bounced back with a vengeance, hitting .314 with 41 homers and 96 RBIs with the Giants in 2004.

Elsewhere, Yakult Swallows infielder Shinya Miyamoto renewed his contract with the Central League club for an unchanged 180 million yen with performance incentives.

In Fukuoka, Daiei Hawks lefty Koji Mise, who became the oldest player ever to be named Rookie of the Year in the Pacific League this past season, re-signed with the club Wednesday for an annual salary of 40 million yen.

The pay raise for the 28-year-old Mise amounted to a 400 percent salary increase.

Meanwhile, Daiei outfielder Hiroshi Shibahara made the unprecedented move of requesting that he be released from a multiyear deal while agreeing to a pay cut of 10 million yen for an annual salary of 150 million yen.