Jojima To File For Free Agency After the Japan Series

Jeff · October 23, 2005 at 8:10 am · Filed Under Mariners 

So sayeth the Japan Times. The standout player would be the first Japanese catcher to try to play in the major leagues.

We’ve talked about Jojima, who the M’s are rumored to have interest in, here.

On the topic of Japanese players, there was previous discussion in the comments about why the Seibu Lions might or might not post Daisuke Matsuzaka. I think Ken Davidoff isolates the club’s thinking in pithy fashion here:

Speaking of Japanese players, righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka’s future is uncertain. He wants to come to the major leagues – the Yankees think highly of him – but he isn’t eligible for free agency, so he would have to be posted by his club, the Seibu Lions, the way the Orix BlueWave posted Ichiro Suzuki five years ago.

The Lions, hurting financially, are deciding whether they would make more money posting the pitcher or bringing him back for 2006.


38 Responses to “Jojima To File For Free Agency After the Japan Series”

  1. David J Corcoran on October 23rd, 2005 9:23 am

    Until MLB allows teams to bring a translator out to the mound during conferences, or unless Jojima speaks good Baseball English, I don’t know why you’d jump on him.

  2. tiddley on October 23rd, 2005 9:42 am

    has Ichiro! learned enough english to help with this allthough it would be funny to see the right fielder run in to help out with a mound conference

  3. David J Corcoran on October 23rd, 2005 9:43 am

    That’s a good point that I hadn’t thought of, but that could work! Although the umpire may have decided that it was enough time for the conference by the time Ichiro gets there. Plus there’s the injury risk of him running back and forth constantly.

  4. IggyReilly on October 23rd, 2005 9:45 am

    There are spanish catchers, right? Catchers from the south?

    It shouldn’t be an issue.

  5. Jeff on October 23rd, 2005 9:47 am

    Jojima has worked with English and Spanish-speaking pitchers in Japan before and seems to have done fine. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about it.

  6. G-Man on October 23rd, 2005 9:50 am

    They managed to communicate with Kaz Sasaki, though having the language gap with the catcher would be more of an issue.

    Does anyone else get momentarily confused between Jojima and JoeJessica?

  7. Deanna on October 23rd, 2005 9:50 am

    Man, I just fear for the Hawks if/when Johjima leaves. They don’t really have any other catchers anywhere near his hitting or fielding ability. Matoba’s their best backup, and he’s been catching almost every game since Johjima’s injury, and has been about as good as Miguel Olivo… the Mariners version, that is.

    (This is really weird, but the Pacific League standings are almost an exact ordering of the OPS of the teams’ respective catching staffs. Lotte is the only team in the PL with a catcher hitting anywhere near Johjima’s .938 OPS, with two of ’em, Satozaki at .842 and Hashimoto at .822. And look, Lotte’s going to win the Japan Series in a few days! Wheee! I’m betting on Satozaki or Imae as MVP if they do, too.)

    Also, never fear, I’m sure Jolbert Cabrera and Julio Zuleta and Tony Batista have been, er, teaching Johjima plenty of English while they’ve been playing on the Hawks.

  8. David J Corcoran on October 23rd, 2005 9:58 am

    How I miss Jolbert Cabrera… He would have at the very least, solidified our bench a bit.

    I’d say our #3 priority this offseason is to get a good offensive minded utility guy.

  9. msb on October 23rd, 2005 10:10 am

    and oh what that says about the bench last year 🙂

    how hard would it be learn to say “go get ’em buddy” and to slap someone on the butt?

  10. msb on October 23rd, 2005 10:11 am

    forgot to add– if he has been thinking about coming over for a while, as rumored, he has probably been taking English lessons, as Ichiro did.

  11. Southpaw on October 23rd, 2005 10:17 am

    If he can hit I don’t much care if he only speaks ancient greek, they can just draw little diagrams in the dirt or something. Or we’ll just have to get Matsuzaka.

  12. msb on October 23rd, 2005 10:23 am

    I think Ken Davidoff isolates the club’s thinking in pithy fashion

    wandering OT while looking at the Daily News, Bill Madden has a vaguely libelous column about the post-season umpire selection…

  13. paul underwater on October 23rd, 2005 10:29 am

    If he can hit I don’t much care if he only speaks ancient greek
    Exactly! and its not like japanese don’t have any english ability — they learn english all through high school and college. Now whether they paid attention is another matter – Ichiro obviously did.

  14. mln on October 23rd, 2005 10:40 am

    Since Jojima obviously will have a hard time communicating with pitchers if the Mariners sign him, it is thus an absolute necessity that they also sign Matsuzaka as well. 😉

  15. David J Corcoran on October 23rd, 2005 11:54 am

    14: And pick up Shiggy’s option!

  16. tede on October 23rd, 2005 12:03 pm

    #12 “wandering OT while looking at the Daily News, Bill Madden has a vaguely libelous column about the post-season umpire selection…”
    That wasn’t liberous. Even vaguely.

    Any system that grades Cowboy Joe as worthy of umping in the Series is flawed.

    The inside ump politics that has been going on since the 1979 ump strike has been pretty ugly.

    That quote from Alderson about the integrity of Rich Garcia has to be a joke. The day after his botched call on the fan interference in the 1996 ALCS between the Orioles and the Yankees, Rich Garcia was signing autographs in Yankee Stadium.

    But it still is miles ahead of the NBA or the high school principals they hire to work weekends in the No Fun League.

  17. Jonathan on October 23rd, 2005 12:12 pm

    So would the M’s expect to be in a bidding/posting war for Jojima with the Spanks? Anybody else? What do we think is the likelihood of the M’s making a go here? He’s a righty, so that doesn’t address the “left handed sock” issue, but addressing the catcher issue would be pretty huge. I guess the question is what does the club think of JoeJessica? Are they ready to hand him the starter’s job? Does that mean Rivera is backup? And how many years away is Clement? Enough to offer a multi-year deal to Jojima?

    Nerd that I am, I do love the chain of questions that defines the off-season. That and Winter Beers are what keep me sane.

  18. Southpaw on October 23rd, 2005 12:59 pm

    I think Jojima is about equal to Torrealba in terms of what he’s likely to produce offense + defense at catcher. The idea is that he’ll come cheap and is worth looking into as a redundancy option at C and allows Clement and Rivera to develop in the minors for another year or two. He’s not worth more than a mil or two a year though unless I’m misreading his value.

  19. Jerry on October 23rd, 2005 1:09 pm

    I like this idea a lot.

    I don’t see the big deal with the language issue. This is somethign all teams deal with given how international baseball is. Plus, it is not like he has to be totally fluent. He would just need to grasp a limited vocabularly of baseball-related things.

    Additionally, I have heard that Jojima has a very good reputatation as a defensive catcher and in his ability to work with pitchers. He has worked with non-Japanese pitchers while in Japan, and this supposedly wasn’t an issue. I think that he would be fine. This is a minor impediment.

    Jojima would be a big boost to the offense, especially if he could manage to maintain his OBP.

    If the M’s could sign him for two years, it would be a real good situation. They could then afford to keep Rivera in AAA, and not rush Johnson and Clement. Torrealba could be the backup next year, with Rivera or Clement possibly coming up the year afterwards. It would give them some options.

    If Jojima turns out to be decent, the would be a great stop-gap for the next two years. However, if he is really good, and Clement continues to develop, the M’s could have some interesting options using both. They could use a platoon, since Jojima is right and Clement is lefty. However, an even appealing options is the possibility of playing both full time, with one catching and the other as the DH. If Jojima hits even nearly as well as he has in Japan, and Clement is too good to keep in AAA, the M’s could keep both in the lineup by using one as the DH. This would mean that the M’s would not have to invest a lot in the DH spot, and would have more options with what they do with the bench, as there would be no real backup catcher.

    Plus, this move would pay obvious dividends if Daisuke Matsuzaka is posted and the M’s can bring him in. Beyond perhaps making the transition easier for both players, the M’s would get a load of attention and revenue from Japan. They would also be bringing in two valuable players without having to give up draft picks as compensation.

    This could be a great move.

  20. Jerry on October 23rd, 2005 1:19 pm


    That is a pretty dismal projection of how he would do.

    The level of competition in Japan is supposed to be the same or slightly higher than AAA. Thus, if Jojima is able to hit like he has in Japan, I would expect him to be a lot better than you suggest.

    Projecting Japanese players is pretty tough. But I would expect that he would be a good candidate to do well in the US. He is a patient hitter, which should serve him well in any context. I would expect his power to slip a bit. However, he is one of the best hitters in Japan, and plays a premium position. I would expect a lot more than JoeJessica.

  21. Tom on October 23rd, 2005 5:22 pm

    The only beef I have about bringing a catcher to the Mariners is that it would make Jeff Clement useless, and I heard he may be at a point by September 2006 where he may make the big club. I think the M’s should just evaluate their catching situation next year.

    What the M’s really need to focus on is starting pitching, so if Matsuzaka decides to come to the USA, then that’s the guy you really need to go after.

    I don’t know how people know the Mat Man, so he may come a little cheaper than a AJ Burnett or Kevin Milwood, which would allow us to actually get 1 or 2 guys like Burnett or Milwood.

  22. Southpaw on October 23rd, 2005 5:49 pm

    In no way does getting Jojima make Clement useless. Clement has the highest ceiling of all possible Ms catchers. It’s simply putting productive bodies in there until Clement’s ready. Neither Jojima if we sign him, nor Torrealba will have long term contracts so they’re not going to be blocking the position. Also, 2006 is a really optimistic goal for Clement since he’s likely to start the year no higher than AA.

  23. Mat on October 23rd, 2005 5:52 pm

    I wouldn’t worry too much about Jojima making Clement useless. First off, backup catchers get more starts over the course of the season than most any other position, so if you’re going to be deep, it’s nice to be deep at catcher. Also, it’s not as if the bench is full of guys who can hit, so even having Jojima around as a league average hitter on the bench might not be such a bad thing.

    Even then, if you’re not satisfied having him as your backup, if he’s been successful enough to block Clement, you’ve been able to show that he can play in the majors. Use that to trade him for other stuff that you need, like the Twins did with A.J. Pierzynski to make room for Joe Mauer. Basically, Clement and Jojima have different enough ages that they really aren’t going to get in each other’s way too much.

  24. David J Corcoran on October 23rd, 2005 5:56 pm

    Here’s my thinking. Say we sign Jojima to a nice, cheap, 2 year deal. Say Clement is ready for the start of 2007 but we’ve got a nice, cheap, all star catcher on our hands in Jojima. We can trade him and get a heck of a boat. If not, he’s our backup catcher in 2007, and that’s cool too.

  25. Jerry on October 23rd, 2005 6:02 pm

    I don’t see the M’s bringing up Clement until mid-2007.

    That is fine. The M’s actually have good depth at C now. Rivera is looking like he will be at least an adequate ML backup. He needs one more year in AAA. Given his age, I think he is a decent player to have in the organization. Rob Johnson finished the year in high-A, and had a really good season with the bat and behind the plate. He is not an elite prospect, but I think that he profiles as a decent ML starter now. I think that he will probably start off at Inland next year, but they could bump him up to AA. It will be interesting to see how he does at that point. But he is an excellent defensive backstop. Then they have Clement.

    If the M’s brought in Jojima, they could take their time with the other players. They wouldn’t have to rush Rivera next year unless there is an injury, which is good. They could afford to have Clement start in Inland Empire, or spend the whole year in AA. Same thing with Johnson. Actually, it will be interesting to see what they do with these two, as they are both at about the same level. But the point is, it would give the M’s an extra year or so to work on Clement’s defense. In the Cal league, he would put up stupid offensive numbers, and could just work on his catching.

    Plus, if Clement has some sort of epiphany and suddenly becomes a GG catcher, they could always have BOTH Jojima and him on the roster. They could rotate between DH and C. Having two good offensive C is not a bad thing, especially when one of them is also an excellent defensive catcher.

    Here is my offseason wishlist: sign Burnett, Matsuzaka, and Jojima, trade for a cheap LFer, and clear salary by getting Guardado and Moyer off the books.

  26. Paul B on October 23rd, 2005 8:15 pm

    The language of baseball is not very extensive. You need to be able to count to three. Say “I got it”. And the signs are non-verbal, as long as you get them explained before the game starts with a translator.

  27. tiddley on October 23rd, 2005 8:55 pm

    besides we could most likely DH Clement if JOjima is still blocking him and just have clement spot start at C until he gets used to what the starters have etc

  28. msb on October 23rd, 2005 9:09 pm

    dang, what’s gotten into Podsy?

  29. JH on October 23rd, 2005 9:10 pm

    #25: regarding Rivera as “at least an adequate ML backup.”

    I’d be interested to hear why a lot of people seem to think Rivera profiles as a major league player. In my mind, nothing Rene Rivera has done in his career suggests he’s capable of hitting major league pitching. The fact that his statline in 48 major league at-bats looks nice is far less important than his ~1400 minor league ABs, which very clearly indicate that he can’t hit. His last .700 OPS in the minors was 3 years ago, in low-A.

    In Rivera’s minor-league career, he has never slugged .400 or posted an OBP of .350. The past 2 seasons, he hasn’t gotten his OBP over .310. Unless he takes a major leap forward with the bat, I think you’re looking at a guy who will be lucky to have a major-league peak of .270/.300/.360. That’s not his expected performance, that’s his upside.

    Hopefully by this time next year Rivera will make me look foolish, but I don’t see anything in his track record that suggests he should have a place in the Ms’ future plans.

  30. eponymous coward on October 23rd, 2005 9:40 pm

    Well, he is 22 and he’s been pretty clearly pushed through the system before he’s shown any hitting mastery at any level (thanks to his defense + our dearth of decent catching). C’s sometimes mature slowly because of that, like some other positions where a player will show up early because of his glove, and it takes his bat a couple of years to show up.

    That being said, yeah, the upside is he has a ho-hum career as a backup C. I sure wouldn’t be keeping myself from signing another C just so I could give Rivera ABs.

  31. Keith on October 23rd, 2005 10:18 pm

    I can hear it now.

    Jima and Jessica: “The Catchin’ Joes.”

  32. Steve on October 24th, 2005 8:22 am

    #24: We can trade him and get a heck of a boat.

    Corco – what type of boat would you get? We’ve already got a USS Mariner. Are you thinking a fleet racing yacht, similar to what George would get, or a dinner cruise ship. The dinner cruise ship would be more in line with typical Mariner thinking, provided they didn’t rent it to the Minnesota Vikings.

  33. vj on October 24th, 2005 9:48 am

    #32: Steve, the link to your homepage has a typo. It is (some religious stuff) while it should be (mariners wheelhouse site).

  34. msb on October 24th, 2005 9:51 am

    on sunday, Joel Sherman of the NY Post opined that “it is possible, even at this late date, that one more manager might get the axe. Seattle’s Mike Hargrove is not completely off the hot seat and the reason, apparently, is a strained relationship with Ichiro Suzuki.”

    of course, Joel Sherman also thinks that Joe Torre should hire Lou as his bench coach….

  35. Pilots Fan on October 24th, 2005 11:16 am

    #34 — This is classic. Pocket Lint’s meaningless rambling about Ichiro now shows up in the NY Post as the inside scoop on Hargrove? Lou as bench coach to Joe (or anyone)?

    I wonder what they call Sherman in New York — Belly Button Lint?

  36. Jerry on October 24th, 2005 1:55 pm

    RE #29

    coward pretty much answered that question. Rivera has been rushed through the system based on his solid defensive play, and has been way overmatched offensively. I think that it is not too late for him to develop decent offensive skills. If he does that, he will be good enough to start.

    However, backup catchers don’t really need to be good offensive players. Most backups just need to be good defensive players. That is about it. If Rivera puts up numbers like .250/.290/.380, he would be a legit option as a bench player. He gives the M’s a backup plan. It is good to have a player like that in AAA.

  37. Evan on October 24th, 2005 4:52 pm

    Now we just need to grab David Wells and we’ll be set.

    He did ask for a west coast team.

  38. JS on October 24th, 2005 5:41 pm

    If Clement can play, he will find his way to the bigs without any fear of being blocked. Say the M’s do sign Jojima, and Jojima is good enough to block Clement. As long as Jojima is outplaying Clement – the M’s can only benefit. Depth is NEVER a bad thing, as long as you can find a way to get your best players on the field.

    I wonder how well Clement can play LF?