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AmarilloRed
11-01-2007, 01:38 PM
Ranking Japanese Pitchers

By my count there are five Japanese pitchers who stand a good chance of jumping over to MLB for the 2008 season. I asked Aaron Shinsano and Jackson Broder of East Windup Chronicle to rank them for us and write a short description for each. Another knowledgable friend, Tak Iwanaga, also added some info below.

1. Hitoke Iwase - Iwase was on the hill for the tail end of last night's perfect game, the Japan Series clinching victory for the Chunichi Dragons. The lefty closer has 40+ saves three years running with a career 1.91 ERA. Tops out at around 93 MPH, but has arguably the best slider in Japan. He's starting to lose movement and velocity on his pitches, but is making up for it with very good control. A nice fit for the Okajima fetishist.

2. Kenshin Kawakami - Japan's highest paid starter for the champion Chunichi Dragons (he made around $3MM) mixes a fastball, cutter, and curveball. His fastball runs around 87 and his curve is very slow. He's known as a big game pitcher and always challenges hitters. He was 12-8 with a 3.55 ERA in 2007, but the K/BB ratio was an appealing 6.3 in 167 2/3 IP. He's a HR prone strikeout pitcher. Kawakami has been healthy for the past four seasons.

3. Hiroki Kuroda - One number to remember here: 300, as in 300 feet to left and 300 feet to right. That’s the stadium Kuroda spent 10 years in, and still he managed to post a sub-2.00 ERA in 2006 and go 13-6. What could he do in Petco with 67 extra feet to left to play with? Tak says that at the least, he's an innings eater.

4. Kazumi Saito - Before Dice-K made his way to Boston, it was Hanshin's Saito, not Matsuzaka that was regarded as the top starter in Japanese baseball. He's won the Sawamura award three times, and when healthy puts up absurd numbers and gaudy K totals. His 2006 line for the Fukuoka Hawks--18-5, 205 K's in 201 IP, a 1.75 ERA--is the stuff of fictional video game characters. Saito employs a big time leg kick, mixing up a forkball, cutter, and nasty hammer in with his mid 90's fastball.

Unfortunately for Saito and the many MLB suitors bandying his name about, he has been dealing with a chronic Prior-esque shoulder injury that could (and should) be a concern for squads ready to drop big coin on a Japanese starter. Saito's numbers when healthy were good this year as he battled back from injury: 6-3, 2.74, 71 K's in 72 1/3 IP, but are teams going to post a $30 million posting fee and $10 mil a year for a starter with shoulder issues? Boom or bust.

5. Masahide Kobayashi - Lost seven games and ERA rose nearly a point in 2007, but that shouldn't deter teams from pursuing this 200+ save closer for Chiba Lotte. Throws from the stretch, and has that deceptive delivery that scouts seem to like these days. Has a great forkball that often tails in toward the batter. Not as good as Iwase or Koji Uehara, but might just be an upgrade over, say, The Farns. Tak adds that he was dropped to the "minors" at the end of the season and many feel his velocity and control are slipping.

Would any of you be interested in trying to sign any of these players? The domestic market for pitchers is weak, and this might be our best option.

Degenerate39
11-01-2007, 01:41 PM
Id be intereted in all of them but they'll be too expensive for my taste I bet.

AmarilloRed
11-01-2007, 02:35 PM
I would consider going after one of them if we don't have to pay the Dice-K down payment. Dice-K was not a free agent last year however. Another problem is that they may want to play in a city with a large Asian fanbase, and that is not Cincinnati. I know these pitchers may come to MLB next year, but am unaware how many of them are actually free agents.

redsfanmia
11-01-2007, 03:24 PM
What is the Asian population in and around Cincinnati? I dont know but I am assuming that its not that great so I doubt any Japaneese pitchers would consider playing here.

GoReds33
11-01-2007, 03:34 PM
I think that Iwase could be awesome out of the pen in Cincinnati. If he is anywhere near a decent price we should go after him.

AdamDunn
11-01-2007, 09:08 PM
Hiroki Kuroda... we could use an inning eater at #3 so we don't have to go to the bullpen so soon. He won't give up the long ball. But honestly, we need to tap the Asian market. There is so much money and talent there (look at Wang, Ichiro, Dice-K, Okajima, Hideki Matsui). Think of how much revenue that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mariners are making. WE CAN DO THAT!

AmarilloRed
11-02-2007, 11:27 PM
Reliever Masahide Kobayashi filed for free agency and is interested in MLB offers. He'd prefer to close but it's not a dealbreaker.

One of them is now a free agent.

GoReds33
11-03-2007, 12:08 PM
Reliever Masahide Kobayashi filed for free agency and is interested in MLB offers. He'd prefer to close but it's not a dealbreaker.

One of them is now a free agent.Time for the Reds to show the willingness to spend. Time to make a move.:)

AdamDunn
11-03-2007, 03:28 PM
Time for the Reds to show the willingness to spend. Time to make a move.:)

It's been time for the last 10 years...

Will M
11-03-2007, 03:39 PM
Something that isn't talked about much is that for these players this is the one time in their lives for a big contract. A lot of these truly free agents ( ie not a Dice K situation ) are 29-33 years old.
These have been making some good money playing in Japan but now is their shot to really take care of themselves and their family.

So lets say a guy gets a 3 year $10M deal from a west coast team. After paying taxes & higher living expenses they go back home a few years later with $5M. Not bad.

Lets say the Reds offer that same guy 3 years at $12M.
He goes home with an extra $1M.
It will make a difference to him. An extra $1M is a LOT of money to a person, especially if he has a family to support/educate/etc.
Compare this to say offering Tori Hunter 5 years at $77M vs $75M.

So I think the Reds CAN get a Japanese pitcher to come here, they are just going to have to pay more than a team on the west coast. IMO this is a LOT better use of money than Castro, Stanton, Cormier, Conine, etc.

AmarilloRed
11-03-2007, 10:26 PM
I take that to mean not much more than $12-13MM. A cheaper option might be Hiroki Kuroda, though that could take a three-year commitment. So, perhaps a larger cash outlay.

I copied this from mlbtraderumors.com. It seems to imply that signing Hiroki Kuroda will be cheaper than signing Schilling for 12-13 million a year, but that you would need to give Kuroda a 3 year deal. I think if the Reds could get Kuroda for 10 million dollars a year for 3 years, they should do it.

GoReds33
11-04-2007, 12:18 AM
It's been time for the last 10 years...Atleast they tried with Griffey, so that would make 7 to 8 years. Hard to believe it's been that long.:)

AmarilloRed
11-04-2007, 09:54 AM
Masahide Kobayashi, the 33 year-old righthanded closer, will be represented by SFX. Fellow free agents Kerry Wood and Jorge Julio are also using that agency, as far as I can tell.
Hiroki Kuroda is expected to fill for free agency on Monday. Since there's no posting fee involved, some have speculated his salary could exceed Daisuke Matsuzaka's. Matsuzaka will earn an average of $8.66MM per season during his six-year deal, and he also has a full no-trade clause. The idea of Kuroda earning around $10MM per year jives with earlier remarks from Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider.
The deadline to fill for free agency in Japan is November 12th. Kosuke Fukudome is still undecided about whether to jump over to MLB. He'll meet with his current team, the Chunichi Dragons, on Monday. They're expected to make him an offer. The Hanshin Tigers may also make a play at $20MM over four years, using the money they received from posting Kei Igawa.

Will M
11-04-2007, 10:42 AM
Masahide Kobayashi, the 33 year-old righthanded closer, will be represented by SFX. Fellow free agents Kerry Wood and Jorge Julio are also using that agency, as far as I can tell.
Hiroki Kuroda is expected to fill for free agency on Monday. Since there's no posting fee involved, some have speculated his salary could exceed Daisuke Matsuzaka's. Matsuzaka will earn an average of $8.66MM per season during his six-year deal, and he also has a full no-trade clause. The idea of Kuroda earning around $10MM per year jives with earlier remarks from Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider.
The deadline to fill for free agency in Japan is November 12th. Kosuke Fukudome is still undecided about whether to jump over to MLB. He'll meet with his current team, the Chunichi Dragons, on Monday. They're expected to make him an offer. The Hanshin Tigers may also make a play at $20MM over four years, using the money they received from posting Kei Igawa.

That is a TON more than recent Japanese pitchers have gotten.
For example the Dodgers paid Takashi Saito $1M this year.
The Red Sox gave Hideki Okajima 2 years/$2.5M last winter.

AmarilloRed
11-05-2007, 02:43 PM
The Cubs are serious about both Hiroki Kuroda and Kosuke Fukudome. They could be signed quickly and fill team needs. This info jives with the recent info from Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. While Kuroda recently filed for free agency, he's open to offers from MLB and Hiroshima.

I really hope the Cubs don't sign Kuroda.

Will M
11-05-2007, 03:59 PM
The Cubs are serious about both Hiroki Kuroda and Kosuke Fukudome. They could be signed quickly and fill team needs. This info jives with the recent info from Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. While Kuroda recently filed for free agency, he's open to offers from MLB and Hiroshima.

I really hope the Cubs don't sign Kuroda.

Where in the you know what are the Reds in all of this?
Not even mentoined.

If our big offseason involves a couple of C/D grade free agents while the team that won our division is improving I'll be annoyed.
Oh yeh, and less willing to spend my hard earned cash at GABP.

AmarilloRed
11-06-2007, 11:17 PM
Profiling More Japanese Pitchers

You may have enjoyed a recent MLBTR post called Ranking Japanese Pitchers, written by Aaron and Jackson of East Windup Chronicle. Now they're back with summaries on four more Japanese pitchers who may come over to MLB for the 2008 season. Kazuo Fukumori, Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Yukinaga Maeda were pegged by Nikkan Sports as MLB possibilities. Summaries from Aaron and Jackson follow.

Kazuo Fukumori - Might have emerged as a top-flight closer on a better team, but best years may have been wasted playing for expansion Rakuten Golden Eagles. Still, saved 21 games and was an All-Star in '06. ERA jumped nearly two runs in 2007, but still saved 17 and maintained a strikeout per inning ratio. Has a formidable slider that tails toward right handed batters. Could emerge as a nice sleeper considering the number of solid closers possibly headed to the U.S. Tampa Bay has been mentioned as being in hot pursuit. [Note: the Red Sox may be in on him as well.]

Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi - Lefty signed with agent Scott Boras in 2003, but nothing came of it. Had an off year in '04, but in '05, his 14th as a pro, had a career year going 15-3 with a 2.99 ERA. Has seen a decline in past two years in ERA, Ks, and wins, while BB/9 has jumped. But despite age has only averaged 95.5 innings per season and could be serviceable as a long reliever/spot starter in a new league. Throws a javelin in the offseason to maintain body/arm balance.

Yasuhiko Yabuta - Yabuta, the right-handed set up man for the Chiba Lotte Marines, is probably best known for striking out A-Rod, Derrek Lee, and Johnny Damon in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. The Chicago White Sox need a set-up man and are rumored to have a strong interest in Yabuta, who has racked up 86 holds and a sub 3.00 ERA over the last 3 years for the Marines despite not panning out as a starter. [Note: the Red Sox are said to have a working agreement with the Marines, also.]

Yukinaga Maeda - The 37 year old left-hander Maeda was given his release by the Yomiuri Giants recently and is planning on making his trip over to the majors. Despite posting dreadful stats over the last several years (ERA's of 4.65, 7.23, and 5.06 in 2005-2007) and a career W-L record of 78-110, His '07 season was marked by a series of call-ups and send-downs, and going on 38 years old, it's hard to see this guy making a huge contribution.

Given the dearth of quality left-handed pitching, a team in need of a left-handed relief specialist might take a gamble on Maeda based on his performance from 1998-2004, split between the Giants and Chunichi Dragons. Then again lefties hit .318 against him in NPB, so I shudder to think what Ryan Howard will do to him given the chance. On that note, Hideki Okajima may soon become the hero for all mediocre Japanese pitchers who get signed to contracts based on the possibility of being the next Hideki Okajima.

I really think if we are going to look at getting pitching help in free agency, Wayne needs to look at going after a Japanese free agent or two. I would rather look at one of these pitchers than some of our domestic free agents.