"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Preparing for Life After Jeter?

The Yanks win negotiating rights with Hiroyuki Nakajima.

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1 randym77   ~  Dec 7, 2011 12:49 pm

"The Yanks are viewing the 29-year-old Nakajima as a potential utility infielder."

They're reporting that the Yanks' bid was $2 million. Plus whatever contract they reach with him. That's a bunch of dinero for a utility infielder.

And does this mean they've lost faith in Eduardo Nunez?

2 thelarmis   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:18 pm

[1] more likely that nune5's gonna be included in a trade. but, yeah, this is too much for this kinda player...

3 rbj   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:18 pm

How many more years does Derek have on his contract? And how much longer is he going to want to play? 29 year old is a bit old to be the replacement, more likely is to draft an 18 year old, and develop him for 4 years or so.

4 thelarmis   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:28 pm

derek has 2 more seasons and i'm sure he's gonna milk another 2 after that...

i'm not a big fan of this posting process + contract for untested japanese futility players...

5 Dimelo   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:29 pm

Yeah this is same country that produced Kaz Matsui. I'm sure he'll break all sorts of records in AAA, him and Igawa will make the Scranton HOF.

6 RIYank   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:30 pm

On the contrary, it's not a lot of money at all. Suppose they sign him to a four year contract. He'll have virtually no negotiating power, since he cannot go elsewhere (like Dice-K), so the contract itself will be cheap. So they won't be paying much for him.
Small risk. I like it.

7 RIYank   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:31 pm

Oh, I meant to be pointing out: over a four year contract, the 2 million becomes a half million per year and no luxury tax on that part of the expenditure.

8 Dimelo   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:35 pm

This is like winning a date with a Victoria Secret model, but the only problem it's 50 years later, where they are 75 now years old, saggy, and all decrepit. I hope Cash isn't popping bottles of champagne over this. Did anyone even know they were after this guy?

I hope Jazz will provide us with inside information from Japan.

9 Dimelo   ~  Dec 7, 2011 1:40 pm

[7] But why not go with MLB experience? There are quite a few out there, other than "Hideki The Great" & Ichiro, have there been any good Japanese hitters in the majors? And we all heard Kaz say how they don't teach you how to field ground balls in Japan. So the Yanks basically traded one butcher who at least played in the majors (Nunez) and can hit for (potentially) another butcher, and we have no idea if he can hit a Beckett fastball.

No matter how small the amount, I see this as risky.

10 RIYank   ~  Dec 7, 2011 2:01 pm

Any decent acquisition is risky. The risk here is a very small amount of money, and nothing besides money. A free agent signing would cost a draft pick, a trade for a decent player would cost a decent player. I don't believe for a moment that Japanese players never learn how to field grounders, by the way. And he doesn't have to be a good hitter. He's a shortstop.

11 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 7, 2011 2:14 pm

[10] Right now, someone who can "hit" .275/.335/.380 and play a passable shortstop is insanely valuable.

Besides, outside of Nunez, the Yanks have no one who can handle SS (and 2B and 3B). Pena can, but he can't hit a lick. Outside of Pena, there's no one in the system. There are guys who can play 2B (Corban Joseph, David Adams), there are guys who can play 3B (Laird), but no SS.

The free agent market for backup middle IF was also pretty bad (see the list at Cot's).

Smart, smart move on the Yanks' part, methinks - and cheap!

12 randym77   ~  Dec 7, 2011 2:16 pm

[10] The report was that in Japan, infielders do not field groundballs backhanded. It's considered unmanly. That's why Kaz would run around groundballs to field them, rather than grabbing them backhanded.

13 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 7, 2011 2:17 pm

I agree w [2]. Should be titled life after Nunez. Chances are the yanks are gonna be better off next year with nakajima and whatever they get in a trade than w just Nunez. Even if Nunez becomes a good regular player elsewhere the yanks had no spot to offer him.

14 cult of basebaal   ~  Dec 7, 2011 5:10 pm

The average Japanese high school infielder has probably fielded more ground balls in his short life than a 20 year MLB veteran.

Anyone who thinks that Japanese players never learn to field groundballs should spend some time watching their team the next time the WBC rolls around ...

15 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Dec 7, 2011 8:53 pm

[14] Yeah, totally. Don't know where that came from..
[8] Nakajima is tough, has got some pop AND speed, and can field well enough. He's a free swinger though and I fear a LOT of Ks early in the season while he makes adjustments (assuming they sign him). I wouldn't expect 2-25 homers in MLB, maybe 10-15?

Why Kaz Matsui flopped so badly I will never know...great, great baseball player. I wonder if it was mental with him?

16 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 7, 2011 10:00 pm

This looks like a low risk-high reward move; they don't pay the posting fee if he doesn't sign, his inclusion doesn't automatically eliminate Nune5 from their roster or their plans (they are admittedly thin for an impact infielder, especially a SS on the farm) and whatever he signs for will not count against the luxury cap, not to mention the new CBA will likely limit their ability to do these kind of moves in the future.

What I would suspect, maybe hope is that Cash is providing a screen for the scouting department while they scour the international scene for available impact talent to sign before the new rules kick in. Maybe a bit far-fetched, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility for a man who dons a wig and scales the side of a building each year for charity.

[15] This older article from the NY Times somewhat foreshadows his time with the Mets. You kinda wonder of it had been a smaller market team (or anyone but the Mets) if he would have had a more sustained and productive career, but it has to be extremely frustrating for any athlete who is used to being highly productive where they come from to fail in a new and larger realm and get constantly dogged for it; makes Hideki's contributions all the more amazing under the circumstances.

17 randym77   ~  Dec 7, 2011 11:41 pm

[15] It came from articles like this:

Both sides now

Galante addressed the situation in late April, but not until May 29, during a trip to Miami, did the Mets learn why Matsui's fielding was so one-sided.

Howe spoke with former major-league and Japanese league outfielder Warren Cromartie, who told him using the backhand is considered, in Cromartie's words, "less than manly" in Japan.

Kaz disagreed, saying it wasn't considered unmanly, so much as sloppy.

And it's not just him.

The disappointing defense of Tsuyoshi Nishioka

“In Japan, it's typical to catch a grounder facing front toward the incoming ball. There is more focus on the stability gained from not using the back of the hand to catch the ball. But in the major leagues, the backhand catch--in which the shortstop grab grounders to their right side with one hand by stretching out their arm with the glove--is mainstream. There is a risk of the ball bouncing off the glove, but the shortstop can get into a position of throwing the ball faster because of the lack of unnecessary moves.”

I'll be interested to see if Nakajima does it that way, too.

18 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 8, 2011 1:07 am

[17] One would think that it never occurred to anyone to ask Kaz himself why he did it that way, then to have Cromartie characterize it that way probably embarrassed him; thinking a method is sloppy is much different than thinking it's "unmanly", whatever the gist. The Mets can only fault themselves for taking a major risk on someone they figured had a bewildering defensive flaw; just one inevitably epic fail after another in the last decade.

That said, perhaps that's why Cashman says the Yanks view him as a utility; if it's something they feel is coachable and provided he shows the kind of plate discipline Nunez and Pena failed to, they likely have very little to risk if they do sign him. If not, well he won't take up too many innings between him and either Nunez or Pena if either are still around, so the odds of him having to make that kind of play in a crucial situation will be even more minuscule.

19 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 8, 2011 1:18 am

[18] I do remember in Little League being taught to pivot when fielding a ball to my side and backhand it with the glove as opposed to running or hopping to get in front of it. As Howe relates, if it's a hot shot and you try to get in front of the ball, by the time you are set to throw the play is over. I wonder if players and coaches in the Japanese leagues who believe that would think Jeter's patented JumpThrow® is sloppy. Not that many over here don't already think Jeter is and always was a less-than ideal defender >;)

20 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Dec 8, 2011 1:30 am

[17] Oh, I didn't mean about the backhand, I meant about not practicing or being taught infield practice. Think I mis-understood earlier comments..
[19] I think the Jump Throw(nifty trademark sign I can't do on my work computer) would be very harshly viewed by high school coaches here, and many pro coaches as well.

21 Boatzilla   ~  Dec 8, 2011 3:11 am

BREAKING NEWS: Yu Darvish to post on Thursday. Today is Thursday in Japan, so I suppose he means Dec. 15. Be still my heart.

22 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 8, 2011 11:23 am

Considering th$2m is non-taxable, and the current state of shortshops in MLB, this isn't a bad deal. He looks like he could certaily be above average as a UINF. Between ARod and Jeter, and keeping Robbie fresh, we could use a lot of backup/LIDR for our Infield.

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