Nakajima speaks about Yankees winning negotiating rights

Mailbag: Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow
Open Thread: Brian Bruney

It was a bit surprising when we found out the Yankees had won the negotiating rights to Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima last week, and recent reports indicate that he might not sign and instead return to Japan for another year before becoming a free agent next winter. Chad Jennings passed along an article from Nikkan Sports with some quotes from Nakajima, but online translations are a disaster. That’s why I enlisted the help of Patrick Newman, who runs the indispensable NPB Tracker.

“I thought ‘whoa!’. I got a bid from a great team,'” said Nakajima, courtesy of Newman. “I still don’t know how it is going to turn out.” The article goes onto say that Nakajima is “highly motivated” to play in MLB (he asked to be posted last year, but his team said no), so the chances he won’t sign are low. He’s leaving the negotiations up to his agent, obviously. I think this whole situation is very interesting, just because it’s not your typical free agent negotiation and Nakajima probably expected to go to a team that would let him play everyday. The two sides have less than a month to bang out a contract.

Big thanks to Patrick for translating the article and quotes.

Mailbag: Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow
Open Thread: Brian Bruney
  • Dan 2

    A whole lot more encourging than previous articles.
    I hope we get this guy. Seems we can get him AB’s with guys taking a day off, with injuries and/or dhing. Give us one year and we will trade you in the second year if you want.

  • Neil

    I wouldn’t mind having Nakajima in a bench role. What kind of contract do you think he gets?

    • Neil

      i think he makes 3.5 M in Japan so he would need atleast 5ish to consider coming stateside

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        That’s kinda high for a utility player, even for the Yankees.

        • kev

          He isnt a utility player he is a buddy for Darvish… im willing to bet that if this guy is on the opening day roster so will Darvish

          • T.O. Chris

            Is this not the most racist thinking? You’re basically saying because Darvish is half Japanese he automatically gets along with all other Japanese players. They don’t even play on the same team, outside of the WBC and similar teams they probably never even talked.

            Also Darvish is half Iranian and speaks fluent English. He isn’t like Daisuke coming over here and speaking a word of English and having no one to talk to.

            On top of that there is no telling how he was treated by a lot of Japanese players while in Japan. Japanese culture looks down on anyone who isn’t full blood Japanese, so he could’ve been treated badly by a lot of opposing players just for that reasoning.

            To assume he would get along with another player just because said player is from Japan is silly and to at least some degree racist.

            • Urban

              Perhaps misguided, but most likely not racist. Thinking someone might like having around another professional baseball player from his own country who also speaks Japanese isn’t a crazy idea, but, yes, assuming they’d like each other or be friends is a stretch.

              Imagine if you were suddenly transferred to Japan for your job and didn’t know anyone. You probably wouldn’t be upset to find another English speaking American with a similar background was there, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have any bearing on your decision to make the move, unless it was your best friend. I’ve never read Nakajima and Darvish are friends, so I think it has no bearing.

              As for Darvish’s half-Iranian background, I’m not sure why some people think that’s worth mentioning. I’m not talking about you, but it gets mentioned as if somehow the man is not Japanese, as if there’s something wrong with him being all Japanese. Now that is racist. I’m half Irish. My father was born in Ireland and came here at a very young age. Make no mistke about it. I consider myself fully an American from the United States. Darvish considers himself fully Japanese and that Japan is his native country. His own quote (translated): “I’m Japanese. I grew up as a Japanese. I’m 100 percent Japanese.”

              Last, it’s unknown to what degree he understands and speaks English. He almost assuredly is not fluent. While both his parents did live in the United States for a period of time before he was born, and they did speak English around Yu when he was younger, that ended when Darvish was three-years-old. He grew up in Japan, speaking Japanese. He perhaps might have the capability to learn English more quickly than someone else from Japan because he heard the language spoken at a very young age, but I haven’t read anything that I’d trust to indicate his true level of fluency. I’m guessing it’s quite low.

              No matter. Like many here, I’m hoping the Yankees mean to be agressive on Darvish. He’s talented and he will certainly be a “marketing star” as big, or bigger, than Ichiro and Matsui if he is good as advertised. Yet that’s secondary, perhaps helping to further expand the popularity of baseball or help the Yankees make back some of their investment in Darvish. Most important is what he can do on the mound.

  • CANO FAN #1

    Sign him and trade with noesi and romine to the athletics for gio

  • vinny-b

    hope NYY retains him. He looks like a player.

  • Soriano Is A Liar

    You think Seattle would trade Felix for Romine and Nakajima so he and Ichiro can be buddies?

    • jsbrendog

      no. as soon as the words king felix and trade come into your mind the answer is no. will. not. happen.

      • Urban

        I’m pretty sure he meant that as a joke…or at least I hope so!

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    He is probably trying to squeeze more money from the Yankees like everyone else. That is what the rumor was about.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    There were rumors that he wanted to go to Boston to play for Valentine, but if I’m Cashman I ask him if Boston wanted him so much why were the Yankees able to pay ONLY $2.5M for his posting fee.

    • vinny-b

      yes. A rumor that Valentine started.

    • Rookie

      Shhhhh… Don’t contradict one of Buster Olney’s made up stories with logic or facts.

  • Mike

    Keep Nakajima for a year or two, and trade Nunez to Braves for Jurrjens/Beachy?

  • James A

    I found a 4 minute highlight video of him, this should totally be his at-bat music
    He will have to get a new number though

    • Good Wood

      We should sign him for the sole purpose of this being his at-bat music. It would be a close second to Tex coming up to “Bad Medicine”.

    • Ryushi

      It is his at-bat music in Japan.

  • Jamey

    honestly a 1-2 year stint with The Yankees would be good for him in a bench role. He’s clearly not a star guy (outside of a shockingly amazing adapting to MLB pitchers) & New York is a good market for an asian athlete. He could be what Kaz Matsui could have been had The Mets not thrust him into a starring role right off the bat. Not just suddenly being thrown into more extensive starting pitching talent than he was used to seeing, but he also, as people forget, bumped the Mets’ then stud prospect SS in Jose Reyes to 2B to accommodate Matsui which is a fast way to get team fanboys to turn against you if you don’t look like an all-star within your first handful of games.

  • Steve (different one)

    I love this new meme that every Asian player will now go to Boston because of Valentine

    • Jamey

      It’s better than the meme we’ve been suffering with, the one where every great player in baseball wants to go to Boston because the team & their fans represent all that is honest & good in this world.

      • Steve (different one)


    • Rookie

      That’s only one of MANY storylines that journalists and other fans of the Red Sox and Yankee haters propogate.

      How about when the Yankees only overpay one of their players by 50-100% and give him a longer contract than anyone else that they’re dishonoring him, whereas when Boston or Philadelphia or Texas or St. Louis does it, they’re being smart — and how they’d be idiots to bid against themselves. (Witness Rollins with the Phillies and Pujols with the Cardinals.)

      Remember when some idiot journalist accused the Yankees of taking advantage of the other team (being like the schoolyard bully) in the trade in which the Yankees traded Mike Lowell for three pitching prospects who never turned out?

  • Nikes

    1. Lol at the 2 random clips of him getting gas faced.

    2. “oh, he can go oppo” -Jay Payton to A’s teammates after a Jeter HR in Oakland.

    3. Looks like a baller to me, sign him up.

  • Holy Ghost

    I don’t see why he would come to the US to ride the bench when he’s a star in Japan. He probably is unlikely to sign with an MLB team unless he gets the opportunity to start.

    • Rookie

      Is that you again, Buster?

  • Rookie

    Olney and Heyman sound like they’re practically begging him not to take the Yankee offer and telling him he would be an idiot to sign with them, when they don’t want him, and not join the great Red Sox team next year where he’s REALLY wanted.

    Olney: “Question is being explored on whether the Yankees may trade Nakajima, for whom they won the bidding; they really don’t have a role for him.”

    Heyman: “#yankees not confident nakajima will sign considering low price he’s likely to get. May stay in japan.”

    Truth: ““I thought ‘whoa!’. I got a bid from a great team,’” said Nakajima…. The article goes onto say that Nakajima is “highly motivated” to play in MLB (he asked to be posted last year, but his team said no), so the chances he won’t sign are low.”

    Never let a good story — I mean a chance to try to hurt a team you don’t like and help their rival — get in the way of the truth.

  •!/KChinmaster KenC

    Looks like he really wants to play in the MLB. And what a great way to start with the Yankees. Yankees should consider getting him and trade Nunez + pieces of a starter if they don’t get Darvish either

    • The Tenth Inning Stretch

      At first I thought you meant to say “pieces FOR a starter,” but I kinda like it better the way you wrote it.

  • mrpappageogio

    I heard Ichiro wants to get traded to the Red Sox cauuse he wants to play for Valentine

  • Pirapira

    The article missed a few things. Just comments from coach anyway. Not that it’s important. Here’s the complete report.

    – When reporters asked what Hiroyuki Nakajima what thought when he found out the Yankees won negotiation rights he said, “I thought, ‘wow.’ A great team won the bid.” –

    – When asked for more detailed information, he replied, “I still do not know what will happen. –

    – Hisanobu Watanabe offered his two cents and said, “I was surprised. They have a lot of good infielders, but Nakaji is the kind of player that thrives in tough situations.” –

    – And when Nakajima reported the news to Tatsunori Hara, he replied, “That is great news. But if you join the Yankees, where will you play?” –

    Also there’s a report all his teammates signed his jersey as a parting gift yesterday. So looks like he wants to go to MLB no matter what even as bench player.

    • Rookie

      Great information. Thank you for sharing it, Pirapira.

  • kev

    It seems pretty clear to me that this means that the Yanks are going hard after Darvish, by signing a low risk low reward Japanese infielder you give someone who speaks the language in the clubhouse and makes his (darvish) transition into MLB far easier