San Francisco Giants to Sign Japanese 2Bman Kensuke Tanaka; Eric Hacker Likely Going to South Korea
The San Francisco Chronicle today reports that the Giants intend to sign soon-to-be 32 year old second baseman Kensuke Tanaka to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Tanaka will be competing for a utility role with the Giants after spending the last seven seasons as a starter for NPB’s Nippon Ham Fighters.
I wish I could say I was more excited about the signing. Given Tanaka’s age, he should be on the down-slope of his career, and I don’t really think he was major league material to begin with.
Tanaka didn’t hit for power in Japan, so he will have no power playing in MLB. His career NPB .286 batting average is good, but his career NPB .342 OBP probably translates to between .310 and .320 in MLB. He was a base-stealing threat as recently as 2010, but stole only 13 bases in 22 attempts in 2012.
The best thing to be said for the deal is that it’s a minor league deal which probably only pays Tanaka about $1 million if he makes the major league club, so it’s extremely low risk.
Meanwhile, Eric Hacker, the ace of the 2012 AAA Fresno Grizzlies, reportedly in the final stages of signing with the expansion NC Dinos of South Korea’s KBO. The soon-to-be 30 year old right-hander went 12-6 with a 4.01 ERA for the Grizzlies last year and 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in four appearances with the Giants. Hacker also had cups of coffee with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009 and the Minnesota Twins in 2011.
Hacker should pitch well in the KBO, but I am a little surprised by the signing since the NC Dinos had already signed Americans Adam Wilk and Charles Shirek this off-season. My understanding was that KBO teams can only have two foreign players on their respective rosters.
However, MyKBO.net reported last June that the Dinos will be allowed to have three foreign players on their 2013 and 2014 rosters while other KBO teams will still be limited to two. If nothing else, the Dinos should have better pitching than most expansion teams with the signings of Hacker, Wilk and Shirek.