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.