Yankees win rights to Igawa for $26,000,194

Updated: November 29, 2006, 7:59 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A day after securing the negotiating rights for Kei Igawa, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman placed a call to the Japanese pitcher's agent, Arn Tellem.

Cashman and Tellem have worked out contracts for Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi, so striking a deal for Igawa doesn't figure to be difficult.

"If we can secure him, we'll put him in the back of the rotation," Cashman said Wednesday. "I've seen him on video and we've had multiple looks over the last several years."

New York gained his rights with a bid of $26,000,194 -- the last three digits matching Igawa's strikeout total this year. Cashman credited the idea of the extra $194 to assistant general manager Jean Afterman, who gained insight into Japanese players when she worked for agent Don Nomura.

"The story within the story," Cashman said. "A little sign of respect."

New York has until the end of Dec. 28 to agree to a contract with Igawa. If there isn't a deal, his rights revert to the Hanshin Tigers and the Yankees don't have to pay the fee they bid.

Igawa went 14-9 last season with a 2.97 ERA. He tied for the Central League lead in strikeouts -- he won strikeout titles in 2002 and 2004. He already is looking ahead to possible pitching duels with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Boston bid $51,111,111 for Matsuzaka and has until Dec. 14 to sign the Seibu Lions' ace, the MVP of the World Baseball Classic.

Even with Igawa, the Yankees are looking to add another starting pitcher to follow Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson in their rotation. While New York hopes Carl Pavano's injury problems are over after 1½ years, the Yankees don't want to have to count on him.

In addition to expressing interest in Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, the Yankees are waiting to find out whether Andy Pettitte intends to pitch next year. Pettitte spent nine seasons with the Yankees before signing with the Houston Astros before the 2004 season.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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