On Tuesday, Japan had a weird trade and its first free agent signing of the autumn.
The Chunichi Dragons, who had the worst offense in Japan for each of the past two years as measured by offensive win shares, traded one of their better players from the past four years, second baseman Toshiki Abe, to the Rakuten Eagles for former ace pitcher Hideaki Wakui, who has had one good season in the past five.
This is a weird trade for two reasons, although not for the Eagles.
The Eagles get a 33-year-old (from December) who can play second or third, and even better, bats right-handed on a largely left-handed-hitting team, while giving up a 36-year-old who is occasionally really good but has a million miles on his arm.
The Dragons, who have one of Japan’s better pitching staffs will get a pitcher they probably will have no role for, so it makes no sense, except that the Dragons do so many things that make no obvious sense that it is fairly on-brand.
The other reason it’s weird is because both of these players have some established value. The rule in Japan is: never trade a player you think has the chance to be good for the other team, because that will be perceived as a mistake.
It’s so weird that one has to think there was a reason Abe had to leave Nagoya. My first guess is that it has to do with family, because he’s from a town in Iwate Prefecture, about 70 kilometers from Sendai.
Eagles manager Kazuhisa Ishii said the trade was initiated by the Dragons, so that’s as good a guess as any.
Seibu loses another free agent
Tomoya Mori added to the list of stars who have fled the domed stadium formerly known as Prince, but unlike their former ace Takayuki Kishi and their former all-star second baseman Hideto Asamura, Mori, the PL’s top catcher opted not for the Rakuten Eagles but to return home to Osaka, where he signed a four-year deal to play for the Orix Buffaloes.
The Lions, one would think, must have wanted to bend over backward to keep Mori, but one never knows. With both Kishi and Asamura, Seibu’s attitude in negotiations was to be offended when other teams made better offers.
Or maybe players with a chance to leave opt not to play in a park that has two thermostat settings: sauna and icebox.
The contract is being reported as a four-year deal worth 1.6 billion yen for the PL’s 2019 MVP.