As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I like to write about the goings-on/comings and goings of Japan’s NPB and South Korea’s KBO, the best two baseball leagues outside of North America (with the possible exception of Venezuela’s Winter League which draws a fair number of major league players, and considering the Caribbean part of North America). My go-to source of late for NPB news is http://yakyubaka.com. Here are some stories I found particularly interesting.
One of NPB’s best young starting pitchers Kenta Maeda is holding off on accepting the Hiroshima Carp’s 200 million yen (approximately $2.38 million) contract offer for 2013. While the offer represents a 50 million yen raise from 2012, Maeda believes he should receive more based on his 2012 performance, in which he led all of NPB with a 1.53 ERA and was arguably NPB’s best starting pitcher.
The Carp’s argument is apparently that Maeda doesn’t deserve more because he pitched nine or more innings in a game fewer times in 2012 than he did in 2010, his break-out season. However, Maeda was credited with pitching six complete games in 2010, compared to five in 2012, and was credited with two shutouts each season. Hard to see a meaningful difference there.
The relevance to major league baseball fans is that if Maeda is fighting with his team, the small revenue Hiroshima Carp, over money, the Carp may be more likely to post Maeda sooner rather than later, possibly as soon as next off-season. As I’ve written before, because of his small stature, Maeda’s potential posting value is probably as high now as it will ever be.
Also, this report tends to give you an idea why so many NPB super-stars are eager to play in MLB, even if their first MLB contracts generally aren’t any larger than what they could make in Japan, not to mention the possible loss of lucrative Japanese endorsement opportunities.
The Yomiuri Giants announced the signing of 31 year old RHP and former New York Met Manny Acosta and are also in negotiations with Casey McGehee, who played (poorly) for the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees in 2012. The Giants see McGehee as part of a possible platoon combination at 1B with John Bowker.
The Yomiuri Giants have also given their star catcher Shinnosuke Abe a 570 million yen ($6.77 million) contract for 2013, a 170 million yen raise from 2012 and the fourth largest single season salary in yen in NPB history. Only Kazuhiro Sasaki’s 650 million yen salaries in 2004 and 2005 and Hideki Matsui’s 610 million yen salary in 2002 were larger.
Abe certainly deserves the money after leading all of NPB in batting average and OPS by large margins and helping the Giants win yet another Japan Series. However, in a statement that only makes sense in the context of Japanese baseball, Yomiuri Giants’ manager Tatsunori Hara stated yesterday that he would like to be able to bat Abe fifth or sixth in the Giants’ line-up in 2013.
For what it’s worth, the sixth spot in the batting order gets roughly fifty fewer plate appearances a season than the third spot. That’s the reason why the team’s best hitter usually bats no later than fourth and why you especially want your first three hitters to have high on-base percentages.
Former major league Kosuke Fukudome has announced to the two NPB teams courting him, the Hanshin Tigers and the Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars, that he envisions a three-year deal which, including incentives, would top out at 1.5 billion yen ($17.8 million). Meanwhile, the Tigers and Bay Stars have each reportedly offered deals that would top out at around 600 million yen ($7.12 million) for the same three-year period.
It seems pretty obvious who is going to have to give here, but Fukudome’s “aspirational” numbers certainly make you think he must be a Scott Boras client. [Fukudome’s agent is actually Joe Urbon.]
The Orix Buffaloes are miffed because the Milwaukee Brewers signed away 28 year old right-hander Alfredo Figaro, who pitched for Orix the last two seasons and whom Orix wanted to hold onto.
Finally, the Saitama Seibu Lions have announced their team slogan for the 2013 season. It translates as, “Burly! Lions-ism 2013.” The word “honebuto” apparently translates literally as “big-boned” or “stout” and can also be used to mean “robust” or “strong” — I like my translation better, but even so, it definitely loses something in translation.