New Second Base Candidate

Dave · October 12, 2010 at 10:23 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Based on a conversation I had this morning, there’s apparently a name I left out of last week’s second baseman candidate post that could be a real possibility for the Mariners – Hiroyuki Nakajima. The shortstop is reportedly going to ask the Seibu Lions to post him so he can make a move to Major League Baseball next year. And, according to what I was told this morning, the Mariners are interested.

Nakajima is not an Ichiro/Matsuzaka kind of player where his posting will be a big deal stateside. The comparison I got was Taadahito Iguchi, and the price is expected to be similar – maybe a couple of million for the posting fee (Aki Iwamura, the only infielder ever posted from Japan, fetched $4.5 million), and then a short term, lower money contract. If he performed like Iguchi did in Chicago, it could be a huge bargain.

Nakajima is a shortstop in Japan, but some reports say he might profile better at second base. His experience at SS certainly wouldn’t hurt, though, and he could potentially shift across the bag if the team moved Jack Wilson once Dustin Ackley was ready. He’s a line drive gap hitter without big power, but he uses the whole field and could be a decent doubles guy. He doesn’t walk a lot, but as Patrick Newman of the great NPB Tracker pointed out, walks and strikeouts are both lower in Japan than in MLB, so that could change when he gets to the US.

If he can handle the transition from turf to grass and play some solid defense, he projects as a potential league average player. He turns 29 next summer, so he should have a few good years left in him. I’d say he’s certainly more interesting than a lot of the names we talked about last week, and he might not be much more expensive. Toss in the potential ability to play shortstop, and you can see why the M’s are apparently interested.

Just another name to tuck away for the winter. Should be an interesting offseason.

Comments

54 Responses to “New Second Base Candidate”

  1. Westside guy on October 12th, 2010 10:36 am

    and he could potentially shift across the bag if the team moved Jack Wilson once Dustin Ackley was ready.

    Given past experience – even if the team doesn’t move Wilson, we’re still gonna need someone to cover short a good bit of the time in 2011.

    Should be an interesting offseason

    Given how uninteresting the on-season was, I certainly hope so!

  2. J-Dog on October 12th, 2010 10:49 am

    I am reposting this post from the DH discussion here – as it really belongs here.

    A few Hiroyuki Nakajima links.

    Wikipedia

    Baseball Cube Stats

    Baseball Reference

    Pictures from the WBC

  3. NODO Dweller on October 12th, 2010 10:58 am

    Certainly seems like a more interesting option than the others listed – yes please. :)

  4. J-Dog on October 12th, 2010 11:00 am

    The Hiroyuki Nakajima highlights seem to include the following:

    1. Good hitter in Japan. Hit .309/.391/.493 in 2009.
    2. Doesn’t walk much
    3. Had approximately 10% BB rate in 2009 (compare to #2)
    4. Has a strong arm
    5. Makes a lot of throwing errors
    6. Won a gold glove award in 2008

    Make sense of that if you can.

  5. KaminaAyato on October 12th, 2010 11:07 am

    Heard about him possibly being posted, didn’t know the M’s were interested. FYI his stats for 2010 are here.

    This time around I don’t really have a lot of info other than I know he’s a good chunk of Seibu’s offense, and in some ways is a face of the franchise. Still, it doesn’t seem like Seibu will be able to garner a lot of money for him like other players posted, so it’ll be relatively cheap.

  6. Badbadger on October 12th, 2010 11:41 am

    From the Wikipedia article it looks like he figured out how to walk in 2006. At least his OBP shot up some then.

  7. spankystout on October 12th, 2010 12:20 pm

    If he can play better D than Josh Wilson put Nakajima at SS, keep Figgins at 2B, and put Mangini at 3B. An infield of Figgins, Wilson, and Nakajima isn’t a step forward offensively, nor would it develop young talent…. I don’t consider a 28yr old rookie “young talent.”

  8. KaminaAyato on October 12th, 2010 12:33 pm

    Given the way the system is in Japan, 28 is pretty young for a player entering FA. And unless you can somehow pry a player from HS/college you’re not really getting any real young talent from Japan. Kikuchi Yuusei is a good example of what the NPB teams will do to keep players domestically. As of now, you’re really getting the 2nd tier of players.

  9. J-Dog on October 12th, 2010 12:37 pm

    If he can play better D than Josh Wilson put Nakajima at SS, keep Figgins at 2B, and put Mangini at 3B. An infield of Figgins, Wilson, and Nakajima isn’t a step forward offensively, nor would it develop young talent…. I don’t consider a 28yr old rookie “young talent.”

    Ackley?

  10. terry on October 12th, 2010 12:44 pm

    Hiroyuki Nakajima

  11. spankystout on October 12th, 2010 12:48 pm

    Ackley?…..he is speclated by many to start the year in Tacoma. So I don’t include him as a possibility until June, or July. If Ackley is ready by June, then they could re-evaluate what to do with Mangini, and Figgins. If Mangini can’t handle 3B or hit, then Figgins (career utility guy) should make the transition back to 3B somewhat smoothly. And you wouldn’t have to bump the possible rookie Nakajima around the infield, while he is settling into the MLB.

  12. J-Dog on October 12th, 2010 1:07 pm
  13. JH on October 12th, 2010 1:08 pm

    Love it. For those who know a little more about Japanese Baseball than I do (not hard): does his strong arm make him a possibility at 3B if we can find a taker for Figgins?

  14. darthbuhner on October 12th, 2010 1:08 pm

    Oh man. In today’s Bill Simmons’ podcast, he and Buster Olney go into detail about why they think the Ms royally messed up picking Smoak over Montero. How scouts say Montero hits a lot like Edgar Martinez.

    Simmons: “There are Seattle sports fans saying “I’m going to listen to this baseball podcast… I’m so depressed about sports..there’s no way it’ll come up” … And yet we’ve depressed them again!”

    Baaaaaaw

    Otherwise great podcast about the playoffs, though.

  15. Summertime on October 12th, 2010 1:09 pm

    Speaking of Ackley, he hit a HR in his first fall league at bat.

  16. JH on October 12th, 2010 1:18 pm

    Whatever you think about Smoak v. Montero, Montero does NOT “hit a lot like Edgar Martinez.” Montero has 117 unintentional walks in 1575 career minor league PAs. Edgar had one of the greatest batting eyes of all time. Montero’s power has graded out as a pure 80 since he was 16. Edgar didn’t grow into plus power until his 30s.

    I can see an argument that their swings look somewhat similar, but their scouting profiles could not be more different.

  17. J-Dog on October 12th, 2010 1:25 pm

    For those who know a little more about Japanese Baseball than I do (not hard): does his strong arm make him a possibility at 3B if we can find a taker for Figgins?

    I don’t know whether he can play 3B in MLB. However, he has played 3B in Japan.

  18. Westside guy on October 12th, 2010 1:27 pm

    Can we stop rehashing the Smoak trade? We need to look forward, not back.

    Smoak is here, Montero is not. That’s not going to change. :-)

  19. darthbuhner on October 12th, 2010 1:29 pm

    Well, I’ve never seen Montero play – I’m not trying to make the Edgar comparison. I’m just quoting Olney, who’s quoting unnamed scouts. Both Montero and Smoak are too untested to pass verdict just yet. It’s just a devil’s advocate scenerio. Both Simmons and Olney carry on about how they think it’ll be a move that will haunt us for years, but we’ll see… Ulp

  20. spankystout on October 12th, 2010 1:32 pm

    The Smoak vs. Montero debate has nothing to do with the “New Second Base Candidate.”

  21. lubin_cuban23 on October 12th, 2010 1:42 pm

    Bill Simmons knows very little about baseball. He is about basketball. Don’t trip.

  22. diderot on October 12th, 2010 3:06 pm

    For whatever reason, our track record in Japan is pretty good. We grabbed Ichiro and Kaz when no one else was that interested…and passed on Kaz Matsui and Dice-K when everyone expected us to be all over them.
    So if the M’s are truly interested in Nakajima, that makes me optimistic. Even discounting for the transition, a guy in the middle infield who averaged .312/18/81 over the last five years seems like he might be able to fight his way onto our roster.

  23. snapper on October 12th, 2010 3:20 pm

    I’m a little surprised the M’s haven’t sourced more players from Japan, given the ownership and Ichiro.

  24. dnc on October 12th, 2010 3:23 pm

    Buster Olney is a Yankee hack. Of course he’s butthurt we didn’t want their top prospect.

  25. bilbo27 on October 12th, 2010 3:33 pm

    Even if he turns out not to be much better than some of the other candidates, he’s certainly more interesting and at least has some upside to him. He can also slot over to short stop obviously when Ackley is ready and Jack Wilson is one of: inevitably injured or continuing to forget that he knows anything about hitting.

    In the end, even if he ends up sucking, he’ll be more interesting, at least in the beginning, so I like this pick. :-)

  26. davepaisley on October 12th, 2010 3:50 pm

    Jack Wilson will get hurt hailing a cab in spring training and miss the first 2 months of the season, so it would be very wise to have a quality versatile infielder capable of playing either middle infield spot. 3B would be a bonus.

  27. Matt the Dragon on October 12th, 2010 4:43 pm

    Slightly more detailed stat-line for Nakajima at the Lions official site

  28. ppl on October 12th, 2010 7:22 pm

    Well the paucity of useful options in the middle infield almost demands that the M’s make a good solid offer if he gets posted.

    A few years back the M’s traded for Catchers on multiple occasions: Olivo, Torreabla and Ojeda.
    And drafted one with the 3rd pick: Clement.
    And along came Johjima to fill the spot.

    Getting Nakajima will be a little more difficult if he is even posted at all. But if they could get him it would be a major leap forward at filling a hole and getting back to a winning record in 2011. Nice to have some early optimism, it is going to be a long off-season.

  29. mln on October 12th, 2010 7:23 pm

    Speaking of NPB players possibly being posted, anybody hear anything new about Yu Darvish’s status and the Mariners’ interest?

  30. Mothy on October 12th, 2010 7:58 pm

    I would love to get Nakajima. The Lions are the local team where I’m living so I’ve seen him play a few times. To my untrained eye I think he could play a decent shortstop in MLB. And I like his bat.
    But I do wonder how realistic it is. If the interest is low enough that his posting fee would be cheap enough I wonder why the Lions would even post him. He’s one of the faces of the franchise, and a legitimate star in the league. Why would they give that up for a few million?
    I want it to happen, since I think Nakajima would be just what we need, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Not until he’s actually posted anyway.

    And for mln, about Darvish, he’s still saying he has no interest in going to MLB. While I think that will probably change eventually- I really doubt it’s going to happen this year.

  31. teddyballgame9 on October 12th, 2010 8:18 pm

    Actually Mothy, I heard that both Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma (who played for Team Japan at the WBC and was one of the best pitchers in the tournament) have both received permission to pursue careers in the MLB. So far reports in Japan claim that the Red Sox are the favorites to get him, while the Yankees, Mariners, Braves, Rays, Rangers, Orioles, Indians, Pirates, and Diamondbacks are all interested as well. It would be amazing if we could get either of them, but I highly doubt we’ll be able to outbid all of the other teams for their services. Nakajima, on the other hand, seems a bit more gettable, and would be the ideal pickup this offseason in my opinion.

  32. teddyballgame9 on October 12th, 2010 8:21 pm

    oh, and this is completely unrelated to the topic, but our boy Johjima hit .303 with 28 homers and 91 rbi this year.

  33. Badbadger on October 12th, 2010 8:33 pm

    I don’t know that I would say that he doesn’t walk much. In 2010 the ML batting average was 68 points lower than the ML OBP. Nakajima’s lifetime BA is 68 points lower than his OBP, and the last couple years he’s done better than that. At this point I’d say he was slightly above average at drawing walks.

  34. Mothy on October 12th, 2010 9:04 pm

    The reports that I’ve read said Nakajima is just in discussions to be posted, and I haven’t heard anywhere that Darvish is seeking to be posted. Last time I heard him comment on it (this summer) he said he didn’t want to leave. Where did you hear this?

  35. ClaytonMiles on October 12th, 2010 9:11 pm

    It’s really exciting to think about Nakajima coming to the Mariners. He would be a big help for the team.
    But I am not so certain his post price would be low. Wouldn’t a lot of other teams be interested in his skill set? I am sure there are clubs that could out-bid us, although if it came to having $5 M to spend on a DH or Nakajima, I kind of prefer to pay Nakajima and sign him to a contract. Then take a super cheap flyer on the DH for 2011.
    But then again, I would hope that the team could capitalize on its reputation in Japan and out compete other teams for Nakajima’s services. Would Seattle appeal to Nakajima? Even if he could take more money elsewhere?

  36. teddyballgame9 on October 12th, 2010 9:16 pm

    He was always pretty adamant about staying in Japan, but apparently he was heavily influenced after talking with Dice-K and Ichiro about playing in the majors during the WBC and he’s since changed his mind. I don’t think it’s 100% official, but most of the Japanese websites/newspapers have pretty much confirmed that his team (Nippon Ham Fighters) has agreed to let him go via the posting system. Of course you never know with this early reports, but I’d say that the chances of him leaving are pretty high.

  37. Mothy on October 12th, 2010 10:41 pm

    I’m sure the Fighters will post him if he wants to go, since they’d get a lot of money for him. It’s more Nakajima I have doubts about. It’s one thing to let one of your best players go for $25 million plus. It’s another to let him go for $5 million. Of course I don’t know much about the Lions farm club. They might have a good SS prospect that would make Nakajima more expendable.

    I’m sure there’s a chance of the Mariners ending up with Nakajima. I just see that chance as so slim I’m not getting my hopes up.

  38. KaminaAyato on October 12th, 2010 10:48 pm

    If Darvish is leaving for the states, that’s news to me. Of course, after doing some catch-up reading, guess he may very well be going to the states after all. But the reports have the D-Backs as the front-runners with them reportedly preparing a $6.5 billion yen offer (which with the exchange rate equals $80 mil) for both the posting fee and his salary.

    The article goes on to say that the Yanks, Mets, Mariners, Rangers, and Braves are also interested.

    If the report is true, the M’s have no shot at Darvish even if they’re showing “interest”.

    I was more familiar with Iwakuma Hisashi leaving, and he’s the Kuroda Hiroki type of pitcher – not overpowering, but has excellent control. But because of the attention he’ll probably receive, we’ll be out of the running here too if people were thinking about adding him.

    We’ll know more about Nakajima as reports say that he’s going to talk to the Seibu FO no later than the 20th about being posted.

  39. jmg27 on October 12th, 2010 11:18 pm

    Assuming they can acquire Nakajima cost efficiently, I don’t see how a player with his skill set, who also plays 2B/SS, would be considered anything other then a positive addition.

  40. pinball1973 on October 13th, 2010 3:32 am

    As a big NPB-PL fan, but not at all a Lions fan, I think Nakajima is the best Japanese position player in the league. Despite hating the Lions, I have a signed baseball of his on my bookcase.
    I’m quite sure he could manage 3rd in the field but his power numbers are of course going to drop. He comes across, and has since he became a full-time player, as a very hard worker with NPB-level star talent and a very, very smart player – smart enough to learn to walk more if he thought it was needed.

    Did I miss discussion of Iwakuma, who is being posted and might be a very, very good pitcher, and maybe a bargain to sign as well? He’s the best pitcher since Kuroda to want to make the jump.

  41. JH on October 13th, 2010 9:22 am

    But then again, I would hope that the team could capitalize on its reputation in Japan and out compete other teams for Nakajima’s services. Would Seattle appeal to Nakajima? Even if he could take more money elsewhere?

    He wouldn’t have a choice. The team that bids highest in the posting process gets the exclusive right to negotiate a contract.

  42. KaminaAyato on October 13th, 2010 10:35 am

    Did I miss discussion of Iwakuma, who is being posted and might be a very, very good pitcher, and maybe a bargain to sign as well? He’s the best pitcher since Kuroda to want to make the jump.

    I don’t think you did, but at the same time I don’t think he’ll be a bargain. If scouts do make the Kuroda comparison, I doubt he’ll come cheap.

  43. diderot on October 13th, 2010 10:54 am

    While Darvish may prove to be ridiculously expensive, I don’t think we should discount the idea that the front office would make very competitive bids for both Nakajima and Iwakuma. They’ve promised the season ticket holders action…and since no amount of money is going to attract the likes of Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee, they’ve got to make an impact somewhere.

  44. SonOfZavaras on October 13th, 2010 11:12 am

    Oh man. In today’s Bill Simmons’ podcast, he and Buster Olney go into detail about why they think the Ms royally messed up picking Smoak over Montero. How scouts say Montero hits a lot like Edgar Martinez.

    They couldn’t be much more different, except for swing path. And Edgar, for all our fond memories of him, had to work really hard to keep Safeco from punishing his style.

    Can we honestly say Montero would do the same?

    I know Montero’s got legit righty power anywhere, but to put any credence in this muck that Olney/Simmons are raking just on that is seriously goofball.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Smoak is going to be on the short list of “the most dangerous switch-hitters in the game” before long.

    And when it happens, I’ll e-mail Olney and tell him to stuff that up his cob-pipe and smoke it.

  45. KaminaAyato on October 13th, 2010 12:47 pm

    I don’t think we should discount the idea that the front office would make very competitive bids for both Nakajima and Iwakuma.

    Oh, believe me, I’d love to get Iwakuma. I thought he was the real MVP of the WBC. But taking payroll into consideration, plus other holes to fill, is it possible?

  46. spankystout on October 13th, 2010 4:06 pm

    According to MLBTR Nakajima will be represented by Tak Sato in his soon-to-be posting….also Bobby Valentine has removed his name from the Marlins possible manager list.rest

    This is good news for the M’s. I would like Bobby V, and Nakajima in Seattle next season.

  47. Juliansky20 on October 13th, 2010 5:00 pm

    I really hope the Giants go after him. Juan Uribe seems to be declining…his K rates are rather uninspiring, and my intuition tells me he won’t ever match his 2010 HR total. Also, he might be overpriced because of his performance in ’09 and ’10. Nakajima seems like he would be a good addition to the team at SS. I’d prefer him over Orlando Cabrera / Alex Gonzalez.

  48. KaminaAyato on October 13th, 2010 5:16 pm

    This is good news for the M’s. I would like Bobby V, and Nakajima in Seattle next season.

    On a side note, if Bobby V becomes manager, I can wear my Marines #2 Valentine T-shirt and get questions as to how they can get a Valentine Mariners t-shirt.

    That or be questioned why I have a Mariners Valentine T-shirt.

  49. G-Man on October 13th, 2010 6:20 pm

    Bringing in players for Japan makes sense in so many ways. Extra money seems to materialize to sign them. Seattle is attractive to them as a MLB destination.

    Compare that to this list of the reasons any MLB player going into free agency would sign here right now:

    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -

  50. ClaytonMiles on October 13th, 2010 8:18 pm

    JH -
    I guess by out compete I mean out-bid. If the Mariners have such strong ties to Japan I would hope the team would be willing to find the money for a Japanese player. But you make the clear point that in this particular player acquisition process money talks, and tangibles like reputation that may be applicable to an unrestricted free agent are not in play for Nakajima.

  51. jjracoon on October 14th, 2010 12:08 pm

    Are the bids sealed and all sent at the same time or can you up your bid based on what others do???/

  52. KaminaAyato on October 14th, 2010 12:41 pm

    @jjracoon – See here.

  53. akampfer on October 15th, 2010 7:25 am

    Seems like a good deal considering the amount of time Wilson is out injured.

  54. nemo on October 23rd, 2010 2:11 am

    Looks like Nakajima isn’t going to be posted… Oh well.

    Oh well. He strikes me as a very interesting player, and I was excited for him to be coming over to MLB, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see if he gets posted sometime in the future. It won’t be this season though.

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