Yankees win bidding for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima


Nakajima during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

12:18pm ET: The Yankees have won the bidding according to Ken Rosenthal, and the two sides now have 30 days to negotiate a contract. Jon Heyman says the bid was approximately $2M, which is nothing. The bids for fellow infielders Akinori Iwamura and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were $4.5M and $5.3M, respectively. They then agreed to three-year contracts worth $7.7M and $9M with the Rays and Twins. Iwamura was posted during the 2006-2007 offseason, Nishioka last winter.

Rosenthal says that Nakajima strongly prefers to the play on the West Coast, so it might be tough for the Yankees to convince him to be their utility guy.

12:01pm ET: Via David Waldstein, the Yankees have placed a bid for Japanese shortstop Hiroki Nakajima, who they apparently like as a utility guy. Given the trade interest in Eduardo Nunez, I suppose landing Nakajima would make it easier for them to deal the incumbent utility man. Nakajima’s posting period ended on Saturday, though the high bid has not been announced.

I don’t know much about Nakajima, but last year NPB Tracker called him the second best hitter in Japan. The 29-year-old right-handed batter hit .297/.354/.433 with 16 homers and 21 steals for the Seibu Lions in 2011, and he’s consistently been a .300 average/15+ homer/15+ steal/50+ walk guy in his career. From what I can tell, he’s played shortstop exclusively over the last four or five years. Here’s his Under Armour commercial, which is seriously the best video I can find.

Should the Yankees win the bid, the question will then focus on Nakajima’s willingness to be a bench guy right smack in the prime of his career. He did ask to be posted last year but was rebuffed by the Lions, so he’s been thinking about coming stateside for a while. Is he willing to do so as a utility guy? I guess there’s nothing we can do other than wait.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Jd says:

    I like idea!
    When will we know?

  2. Jd says:

    I like idea
    When will we know?

  3. Cy Pettitte says:

    what’s the rumored asking price on him/what can they expect to have to pay?

    Sign him, then send Nunie + lower level prospect or two to the Braves for a pitcher (Jurrjens?) Might as well sell high on Nunie right? I don’t think he’s Jeter’s long term replacement. If this guy sucks then they can use Pena in the utility role for a year and readdress it next year.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I don’t know if after a below replacement season where he made a jillion errors is necessarily selling high on Nunez.

  4. 28 this year says:

    Is he better or worse than Nishioka, the guy who suffered a broken leg from a Swisher slide?

  5. UncleArgyle says:

    Intresting. I wonder what the winning posting fee will be. 8 mil?

  6. CJ says:

    I read that there was only one bid I don’t remember the source. Also, japanese team said they will accept any bid. 99% he’s a Yankee. I believe official time is Friday 5 pm eastern time.

    • Sarah says:

      I read that too. Originally heard it was the Giants who submitted the bid, so maybe it was a Giants beat reporter who said only one bid was submitted.

  7. Granderslam says:

    If this precludes a trade for Nunez (in a package for a SP), then I’m definitely down with it. Makes sense.

  8. Cy Pettitte says:

    MLBTR says the Seibu Lions should announce the winning bidder today

    at least we don’t have to wait long for some resolution.

  9. Gonzo says:

    Darvish needs a friend.


  10. Kosmo says:

    I thought the Yanks would post for Nakajima. Makes a ton of sense if they are the high bid. Cashman was Mum when asked about it the other day.

  11. Mark in VT says:

    Could they turn around and trade him? Knowing that he exclusively has been a SS, maybe they are trying to sign him to then trade him to a team that needs a SS.

    • 28 this year says:

      technically he’s a free agent under the rules (i think) so you would have to have his permission to trade him before June 15th (i think thats the date) so your market is going to be small and it would probably be difficult to trade him.

      • Craig Maduro says:

        Getting permission probably wouldn’t be terribly difficult considering he prefers to play on the West Coast. The bigger challenge might be finding the West Coast team that needs/wants him. You have to figure some team(s) out there would be interested though.

  12. j says:

    It’s a good idea because Yu Darvish will need a friend on the team.

  13. candyforstalin says:

    i thought of this a week ago. asked patrick newman if he could be a .330 woba guy in mlb. “a little bullish but probably doable”.

  14. Josh says:

    Nunez is definitely expendable now. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him shipped out in weeks to come for Gonzalez, Danks, or Garza.

  15. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    I hope we get him and that he turns out better than Nishioka. You don,t need to give up Nunez, you just have to not sign Chavez. But if it is the last resort you try for Jurrjens. Of course you do an MRI of his shoulder, one of his elbow, one of each knee and a thorough physical before you commit.

  16. Gonzo says:

    Isn’t Cash on record as saying he was against paying posting fees as he sees them as a waste of money?

    Things change Mox.

  17. well you know says:

    I’ve seen an estimate of $5M posting fee and $4M a year salary.

    In the big picture, I’m concerned this is bad news for Montero’s future on the team. If this guy is getting paid $4M/yr, he’s going to be playing a lot. I don’t see Alex and DJ getting paid to sit on the bench, which means they have to be DH-ing. There are only so many spots in the lineup.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Perhaps he’ll get more time at SS if Jeter declines or A-Rod gets injured, but I don’t see him as a DH. Look at power numbers of guys coming over form Japan. They generally hist for less power here. Averaging only 15+ on his career, he’ll probably only hit 10 or so in the states. Unlikely they’d consider him for DH. He’d probably be a Nunez replacement and nothing more.

      • well you know says:

        I’m not saying he would DH. I’m saying the signing suggests a plan that Alex and DJ will be half-resing at DH a considerable portion of the time.

        I think Alex and DJ get paid too much, in the Yankee way of things, to sit on the bench while Montero DH’s.

    • AndrewYF says:

      Jeter won’t be the DH over a better hitter. As he nears the end of his career he’ll simply play less, either due to ability or injury. A-Rod too. Leaves a significant amount of playing time for other, more capable hitters. I really wouldn’t be too concerned. As we saw with Posada, the Yankees won’t let older, less able players keep younger ones down for too long.

    • Yazman says:

      Hoping that translates into time behind the plate for Montero.

  18. Cris Pengiucci says:

    Maybe, as Jeter continues to age and needs more and more rest, they see Nakajima as a better replacement option for him than they felt Nunez would be. Seems like a good idea to sell high on Nunez then.

  19. UncleArgyle says:

    Just watched the Under Armour Video….Totally sold. Dude crushed that pitch. What more do I need to see?

  20. AndrewYF says:

    Pretty savvy move by the Yankees. The guy shouldn’t cost much, and would probably only want a 3-year deal, and he gets a chance to be Jeter’s replacement with potential for a more serious payday down the road.

    Also I’m assuming he can fill in a lot at third base, although of course the smarter move would simply be to move Jeter to 3B when A-Rod is resting.

    • Craig Maduro says:

      I’m not sure if you are suggesting that Nakajima could be Jeter’s long-term replacement and I don’t wanna put words in your mouth.

      Generally speaking though, I’m not buying the idea that Nakajima is/would be Jeter’s replacement. You can correct my numbers if they’re off, but won’t Nakajima be 32-33 by the time Jeter retires? You can certainly have some gas left in the tank at that age, but its definitely not ideal for Jeter’s replacement. I realize I’m making a lot of assumptions here, but I just don’t think the Yankees’ plans for Nakajima are that grand.

  21. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    One other thought on this. As Cris Pengiucci beat me to it I will just add the following. Since he is used to play regularly, will he accept a lesser role with the Yankees?

  22. jeremy says:

    i think they need to be sure they get this guy signed before they deal someone like nunez

  23. split-finger says:

    oh the guys got a great name.

  24. Granderslam says:

    Now let’s play the guessing game…who needs a young shortstop in exchange for a SP? Hmmm… Braves….who else?

  25. 28 this year says:

    This is really interesting because this is quite the expensive utility player. I wonder how this plays out because this cannot just be an addition, there must be some corresponding move.

    Maybe Cano is going to be traded.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Salary reduction!

      • 28 this year says:

        Whatever happens, I think I am just happy to have something happen. It gets boring when the team you love just sits there. I agree with Cashman that its smart to do that, but still, its boring as a fan.

    • Cy Pettitte says:

      If they can get him for something like 3yr/7.5mil + 2mil posting fee then I think it makes sense. You don’t have to pay an older, injury prone guy like Chavez a mil each year and you get the value from trading Nunie.

  26. Cris Pengiucci says:

    “Even if when they win the bid ..”


  27. Yu Darvish says:

    Look at my youtube video guys, I strike him out

  28. Sarah says:

    $2M posting fee. That’s like pocket change to this team.

  29. CS Yankee says:

    Yu & Hiro sitting under the christmas tree…

  30. Brooklyn Ed says:

    I predict Hiroyuki Nakajima will wear #12 since #6 can’t be touched. Hopefully he will adapt to major league pitching quickly will Ichiro did.

  31. Gonzo says:

    I guess even if he doesn’t sign, they removed one competitor for Nunez in the marketplace. Heh.

  32. MannyGeee says:

    I don’t hate the move, and if he is the second best hitter in the league, then I think it doesnt hurt to make a play for him.

    That said: Eduardo Nunez, we hardly knew ya!

  33. HeavyHitter says:

    A prelude to trading Nunez and getting Darvish?

  34. Alex Kinkead says:

    I hope he can field better than Nunez

  35. forensic says:

    This gets me thinking. What produces a more overall positive outcome for the Yankees: trying to trade Nunez by himself (or with other mediocre prospects) for a moderately good player or trying to put Nunez with Burnett (and other mediocre prospects) as a slight upgrade to a Burnett trade to try eating a little less salary?

  36. thenamestsam says:

    This is an odd one. Assuming they sign him, they basically have to trade Nunez, as there’s no way they both fit on the same team. I wonder whether they already have a deal in place or if they’re just assuming that one can be found. Assuming that they wanted to deal Nunez it makes sense to spend some money on your utility guy, as he’s likely to get plenty of ABs with Jeter and ARod aging. If they don’t see Nunez as an eventual Jeter replacement, it makes sense to move him now and start trying to find the player who is. Maybe it’s this guy.

    I also wonder if spending more on the utility infielder means they don’t plan to spend on a corner infielder type like Chavez. Might pave the way for Laird or everyone’s favorite Mexican superstar to make the team next year.

  37. aluis says:

    Anybody get a read on the defense? (better than Nunez I would hope!)

  38. Monteroisdinero says:

    Good thread for Pearl Harbor Day. Better invasion.

  39. Steve (different one) says:

    Be interesting to see how this plays out. He prob sees himself as a starter, and apparently prefers the west coast, but…if he doesn’t sign he has to wait another year.

    My initial, completely amateur, take is that the yankees see this guy as a starting SS for a lower tier team, and it’s hard to get players like that to accept bench roles on the Yankees. They saw a very inexpensive way to land that bench player and jumped on it.

  40. Hombre says:

    Someone to keep Yu company.

  41. I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

    This certainly has a “wait for the other shoe to drop” air to it, doesn’t it?

    As has been noted above, trading Nuñez is the obvious counter, as is not signing a caddie for A-Rod (though I don’t think Nakajima has played 3B much right?)

    Darvish? Dealing Swish? Signing Cespedes? Something more is coming.


  42. JohnC says:

    Word is he preferred the West Coast and Yanks wanted him for infield depth. Won’t be easy to convince him to sign. Maybe they sign him with the understanding they trade him.

  43. Monteroisdinero says:

    Igawa can give him the Kei to the city.

  44. Rookie says:

    I was starting to write a post about this guy being way more than a utility player based on his stats in Japan. And I was going to say that even if you adjust his OPS from 2008-2010 down by 50-100 points, he would still be an 800 OPS player. (Of course, his stats in 2011 were awful.)

    But then I looked at the decline in Ichiro’s and Hideki Matsui’s stats going from Japan to the U.S. and concluded otherwise. It looks to me like the drop was closer to 200 points for both of them. I think if you put Matsui on truth serum, he would tell you that it was a mistake to come to the U.S. It looks like he was on his way to being one for the ages in Japan.

    I definitely suspect that the main reason for pursuing Nakajima is that Cashman has a deal he likes more or less in place that includes Nunez. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it’s with the Braves given his history of trading with them and the rumor (if I’m remembering it correctly) about their interest in Nunez.

    In any case, I trust Cashman.

    But just out curiosity, does anybody know what kind of defensive player Nakajima is?

    • Rookie says:

      Wouldn’t it be great if Nakajima and Kuroda wound up making Darvish more comfortable in his first years wearing the pinstripes — although I still think the Yankees are at best third most likely to win the bidding for the rights to negotiate with him. (And I’m skeptical he’d sign even then unless he’s paid $15 million or more per year.)

    • Soriano is a Liar says:

      Heard reports that he’s decent at SS, but that the Yanks view him as more of a 3B/2B backup. I would guess he could play shortstop at least acceptably well in MLB though, otherwise he wouldn’t play there in Japan.

  45. CS Yankee says:

    isn’t he 27?

    29 is listed above in the article.

  46. BK2ATL says:

    I like this move, esp. if we’re able to sign this kid as a back-up IF. It provides us with some flexibility in trades.

    We could now add Nunez to trades, alongside with the likes of Burnett, Hughes/Noesi/Betances, Williams, and Romine. It also brings a familiar player over in hopes of landing Darvish.

    Basically, we could aggressively bid on Darvish, esp. if we can work out a deal to get rid of Burnett. We could add Nunez (2B) to the Danks talks, once Kenny Williams comes down from the skunk weed he’s been smoking. The Angels want Beckman, which is where Nunez comes in for Chicago. Nunez could also be a deal-sweetener with the Cubs for Garza.

    Potentially, we could end up with a 2012 rotation of CC, Darvish, Danks/Garza, Nova, and Garcia with Hughes/Noesi in the swingman role. We could lose Burnett and Nunez from the active roster, while adding Nakajima, re-signing Chavez, and Andruw. Also getting in on Cespedes and Siler.

  47. B-Rando says:

    Anyone else confused as to why the Yankees got him for only 2M? I know theres obviously risk there, but with how thin major league SS are around the league, it seems like a no brainer for a team to take the flyer on him.

  48. tut says:

    What does this deal mean for Jeter?

  49. Jumpin Jack Swisher says:

    “wait, you mean no one else bid?” – Brian Cashman

    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      I wonder if there’s certain amount of money you have to offer or if you can just offer $1. It would be so embarassing for a player if somebody wins the rights for $1 :D

  50. JonS says:

    i like the deal! Yu is going to need a roommate! N i kno there is talks of now trading Nunez but i see the yanks holding on to him n converting him into an OF. I truly think Cash is trying to hold on to him. N if he’s not traded n we do get to use hit bat more i wont be complaining

  51. William says:

    Think Eduardo nunez with worse bat but better glove. Utility guy.

    • BK2ATL says:

      When has Nunez ever been the “2nd best hitter” of anything?

      Nakajima sounds like an upgrade over Nunez at the plate, and while offering less range, he won’t have as many errors as Nunez in the field. So, I agree that he’d be a utility guy.

      We finally have a position player of value available to trade. Several teams want him. We’d now be best served to listen to what comes our way.

  52. Alfredo says:

    How about trading nunez, montero, banuelos, betances, nova, and mason Williams to Seattle for Felix and pineida. Then sign darvish sign cespedes and soler and trade burrnet.

    • Bavarian Yankee says:

      sure, why not. Afterwards we trade CC and Gardner for Kershaw and Kemp, sign Pujols and Fielder and destroy everyone :D

  53. Greg says:

    Jack Curry has just tweeted that he talked to someone who has seen Nakajima play and that that guy said that Nakajima was a poor defensive player. Curry says that it doesnt sound like he could surplant Nunez in UT role.

  54. Greg says:

    And the Marlins are going nuts. They have offered a 6 year deal to CJ Wilson

  55. Sam says:

    apparently he has a bit of a villain, love the music for this haha

  56. Sam says:

    apparently hes a bit of a villain, love the music for this haha

  57. Rookie says:

    I don’t get the $2 million either, B-Rando. Maybe it’s because (I believe I read that) he’s a free agent after this year, so he’s not expected to take much of a discount to what he would receive as a free agent then?

  58. Rookie says:

    Maybe the precursor to Nunez, Betances, Noesi, and others (including two or three other young pitchers and maybe Swisher and/or Burnett) to Atlanta for Jurrjens.

    I know, I know. But a fan can dream…

  59. SevenAces says:

    Would be funny if the 2M bid was one of those for the heck of it shit and giggles bid… But I highly doubt it, there is a bigger picture to all this and we’ll soon see what CashMoney has up his sleeves.

  60. BK2ATL says:

    Who would’ve guessed that the Miami Marlins would be the talk of the hot stove this year???

    Heath Bell
    Jose Reyes
    Mark Buehrle
    and maybe Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder???

    Other than the Mets, the NL East just became very interesting…The Braves, Marlins and Nats will battle it out for the 2 NL East wild card spots, and if Philly’s not careful, the division title.

  61. John Ya Ya says:

    Seems like a more healthy and versatile utility option than Chavez, nothing more.

  62. Mike says:

    Jon Heyman just tweeted that hte Yankees are probably not going to sign him and he might stay in Japan.

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