Spring has sprung … for Roberto Petagine, anyway
It might be snowing in Bellingham, but it’s spring training somewhere. Ichiro has started taking batting practice with his old team, the Orix Blue Wave, on Miyako Island in Okinawa. Thankfully, he’s preparing to return to the Mariners, not to go back to the old stomping grounds.
One player who isn’t going back to Japanese baseball, either, is Roberto Petagine. A free agent whose two-year deal with Yomiuri just expired, USA Today’s Rod Beaton expects Petagine to sign with Boston.
You may remember Petagine as the guy who stunk for parts of five U.S. seasons (and just over 300 total at-bats). After his year 27 season, he departed to the Yakult Swallows and promptly became one of Japan’s top sluggers.
Petagine hasn’t had the best reputation in Japan lately, since he’s demanded (and received) special treatment for himself and his wife, 57 year-old Olga. The Yomiuri Giants and the Petagines have slung some mud back and forth, with Olga criticizing team management and Giants staff basically saying Petagine is a washed-up has been with bad knees.
[Yes, he’ll be 34 in June, and she’s 57. When I was in Okinawa last summer, I watched an entire 10-minute segment of a Japanese baseball show devoted to — no joke — making fun of Petagine for having an old wife. Now that’s television. The Petagines seemed to basically laugh it off, though, so good for them.]
Judging by Petagine’s 2004 season, there may be something to the Giants’ claims. After posting slugging percentages of .600 or better for five straight years, the lefty’s numbers fell a precipitous 122 points. That’s a lot of slugging.
Don’t feel sorry for Petagine, since he made enough money in Japan to buy the Japanese TV station that made fun of his wife and then have everyone there fired, but his prime years over there indicate he could’ve been a top-shelf player on this side of the pond as well. Compare his age 28 season to Hideki Matsui’s:
Matsui – .334/.461/.692
Petagine – .325/.479/.677
Matsui’s three years younger, much healthier and plays better defense, so I’m not at all saying that Petagine will be even close to the player Matsui is. There’s virtually no chance of that. This just gives you some idea of the kind of player he was.
So what will he give the Red Sox, if they indeed end up signing him? According to Beaton, Boston isn’t counting on him for anything more than to “be a left-handed bat in left field and and come off the bench as an ideal successor to the departed Doug Mienkiewicz. [sic]” That’s not at all too much to expect from an offensive production standpoint, and though he’s lead-legged in the field, Petagine could be a valuable reserve.
I really like this thinking on the part of the Red Sox. Considering the cheap, near risk-free deal Norihiro Nakamura just signed with the Dodgers, I can’t imagine it would take much to sign Petagine. This is the type of minimal risk option that solid teams pursue.
Looking over at the Big Board, too, one can’t help but notice the absence of any left-handed bench bat that you’d like to see … well, come to bat. Conversely, if Petagine ends up working out, he could be a counterpart to the right-handed Bucky Jacobsen.
The Red Sox are right to consider Petagine. I hope the Mariners also take a look at him.