Friday, December 03, 2004

The Next M's Third Baseman? 

I just returned from some business travel, and while looking over a fellow traveller's shoulder, I managed to catch this snippet in the Japan Times (forgive me if someone else has covered this already, but I've been out of the loop).

Norihiro Nakamura, Japan's highest paid player, is coming to America. Will he be manning the Hot Corner for your 2005 Seattle Mariners?

This is Nakamura's second trip to the states, when he shrewdly backed out of a 2-year, $7 million contract with the Mets to sign a 5-year $30 million contract with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. But his American ambitions seem to have returned.

So what do we have here? He's a 13-year veteran of the Japan Leagues, and is 31 years old. After putting up monster seasons in 2000-2002 (127 HRs, 357 RBI), he hurt his knee in 2003 but played out the season, a move that led to him playing in only 117 games, and his OPS dropping from 1064 and 997 in 2001-2 to a meager 816.
In 2004, he only played in 110 games, but his OPS rebounded a bit to 858.

He is also a good defensive player, with 5 Gold Gloves to his name.

He is not a free agent, so he will have to go through the well-understood posting system, which every M's fan understands, comes out of the special foreign players fund and thus does not affect the M's budget.

He trained with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Spring Training camp in 2004, so that may be his preference. He will certainly come cheaper than Adrian Beltre. Heck, he will probably be much cheaper than Corey Koskie.

He could be an inexpensive addition to the Mariners, but looks very risky to count on for 2005. Still, if we are unable to land Adrian Beltre (and we should be going after him hard and heavy), then Nakamura may be an inexpensive player to take a flyer on, while we allocate big bucks elsewhere (see Beltran, Carlos), rather than overspending on Corey Koskie.

I'd love to say more on the subject, but frankly, that's all I know. If you follow Japanese baseball, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Nakamura and whether he might be a good short term (see next 1-2 years) with the M's.

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