Tag Archives: winter meetings

The kotatsu league: 4 more years, Kikuchi to remain with Carp

Second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi will remain a Hiroshima Carp, he told a press conference at Mazda Stadium on Friday, Kyodo News reported in Japanese, when he signed a four-year contract extension after failing to get a timely guaranteed major league contract.

Below are some Kikuchi highlights so you all can see what you’re missing.

Soon after the Central League club agreed to post him, Kikuchi said he would only move to the majors on a guaranteed major league contract. After meeting with teams at December’s winter meetings in San Diego, he has now told Hiroshima that he intends to remain with the Carp for 2020.

My profile of Kikuchi is HERE.

Former Tigers skipper Yoshida blames “undignified” Solarte for troubles

This year, the Hanshin Tigers rushed Yangervis Solarte into the firing line with a minimum of exposure to Japan’s game. His immediate success was quickly followed by failure and a trip to the minors, from which the former major leaguer never recovered.

Solarte was given 80 first-team plate appearances, then judged unworthy and demoted to the farm team. When he said a few days later that he was unable to “get motivated,” he declined promotion to the first team and returned home.

Yoshio Yoshida, a deserving Hall of Famer as a shortstop who also managed Hanshin to its only Japan Series championship in 1985, told the Nikkan Sports on Friday that Solarte’s problem was a “lack of dignity.”

“That Solarte, he COULD play at shortstop but he demonstrated a lack of dignity.”

Former Hanshin Tigers manager Yoshio Yoshida

Solarte went 13-for-69, but four of those hits were home runs. He drew nine walks, scored sic runs and drove in nine. Hardly a disaster.

The Tigers are a proud organization steeped in tradition. Unfortunately, one of those traditions is discarding foreign imports who fail to meet the team’s expectations for instant success and blaming the individuals for the club’s traditional lack of patience and understanding.

Free agent center fielder Akiyama could have deal this year: Report

Japan’s Nikkan Sports reported Friday the Cincinnati Reds have put a multiyear offer on the table for free agent outfielder Shogo Akiyama, and are the top candidate to sign the 31-year-old, citing multiple major league sources.

The Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs have all been tied to the center fielder and leadoff hitter for the two-time defending champions of Japan’s Pacific League. Those teams met with Akiyama at December’s baseball winter meetings in San Diego.

My profile of Akiyama is HERE.

The report says the Rays and Cubs showed the most interest early on. Akiyama broke Japan’s single-season hit records set in 2010 by Matt Murton, who is currently working in the Cubs’ front office.

The Nikkan Sports story, however, said Cincinnati has since upped the ante and a deal with the club could be concluded before the end of the year. If Akiyama moves to the Reds, he will be the storied club’s first Japanese import.

Unlike compatriots Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Shun Yamaguchi and Ryosuke Kikuchi, Akiyama is a free agent and is not bound by a signing deadline. He is represented by agent Casey Close. On Friday, Kikuchi announced he would return to the Hiroshima Carp for 2020.

Other reports, including this one from the Hochi Shimbun, indicate the San Diego Padres have recently entered the bidding for Akiyama.

Tsutsugo, who was also a fixture on Japan’s national team, has concluded a two-year deal with the Rays, while pitcher Yamaguchi has reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Kikuchi, a record-setting glove wizard, has roughly a week to sign before his rights revert to the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Central League. Yamaguchi, too, has a Jan. 2 deadline to complete his deal.

Akiyama highlights published this year by Pacific League TV.

Although a good comparison to former big league outfielder Norichika Aoki, Akiyama will strike out a little more — everyone does — but drive the ball better to the opposite field.

Akiyama, Tsutsugo talk warming up

Sports Nippon has reported that outfielder Shogo Akiyama is now in the United States to meet with his agent as major league teams hunker down in San Diego for the baseball winter meetings.

Outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is also nearby according to a Sankei Sports report, working out in Los Angeles. He will need to sign a contract this week or return to the DeNA BayStars for 2020.

Williams excited about Korean chance

Nothing to do with Japanese baseball, but happy to meet former Nationals manager Matt Williams and ask him about his upcoming gig as manager of KBO’s Kia Tigers.

Asked about the reason for going, Williams put it down to the rapport he had the club’s executives from the get-go when he was surprised to learn he had competed against one of them as a member of the U.S. national university team in a tour of South Korea.

“The organization has told me they want to learn, they want to progress, they want to do different things, and I want to help them do that,” Williams said. “I’m so excited because it’s a chance to do something different. You can go through life and be a coach or whatever and never get to do something like this. So I jumped at the chance.”

The kotatsu league: Tigers set deadline for Johnson decision

The Hanshin Tigers have set a Dec. 12 deadline — the final day of the baseball winter meetings in San Diego to decide on whether to try and bring back reliever Pierce Johnson or pursue other options, the Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday.

A collection of Pierce Johnson’s curves and strikeouts.

The 28-year-old right-hander was one of the Central League’s premier middle relievers in his 2019 debut Japan season.

Tigers officials are now in the U.S. to try and iron out agreements with Johnson and fellow right-hander Rafael Dolis.

And a collection of Dolis’ 2019 strikeouts.

Boras on NPB signing U.S. amateurs

This is a transcript of the chat with Scott Boras at the 2018 winter meetings in Las Vegas, when the nature of MLB’s signing bonus pools was screaming for a market correction from a strong rival league — enter NPB, and the SoftBank Hawks. Note the remarkable transformation that has come over Boras’ stance on the possibility of a U.S. amateur entering MLB as an international free agent since December.

–With the CBA and penny-pinching by MLB, is Japan an option? Have you talked to Japanese teams about amateurs?

“We have a number of players with Japanese teams. Of course, they’re limited to four per roster, so that part makes it a little bit more resigned as to what they do with prominent…”

“They have scouting teams and they are involved, but you would like to see it greater involved than what it is. We have had some very positive impacts. Japanese baseball is an extraordinary brand of baseball. It’s really good. It’s got good audiences. A number of those teams draw 2-1/2 million people.”

–I ask that because of the signing bonus pools depressing the prices for amateurs, there are so many…

“…No. I think it’s very wise for Japanese teams to take a look at that and take advantage of it. I think they should.”

–Have you got a response from Japanese teams about amateurs?

“I think it’s something that if they look at it and see the kind of value in that kind of player, you can go forward.”

–The NPB teams have been telling me about two-year deals so a player could re-enter the MLB draft or a five-year deal so he can enter MLB as a free agent.

“One of the real problems with signing with a Japanese team is that when a player leaves Japan, he comes back here, he’s still subject to the draft.”

–Even if he’s a six-year pro?

“If you’re in Japan and you’ve never signed here (in the States), then you’re still subject to the draft. That rule kind of restricts that.”

Scott Boras on the subject of amateurs signing in Japan. Dec. 13, 2018

The one and only Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki is many things to many people. He’s funny, gregarious, warm-hearted, cool and focused. So much seems to depend on what he wants and where he wants to go.

I caught up with his agent, John Boggs at the winter meetings in Las Vegas, and he relayed some of his insight into the Japanese icon.

One of my Ichiro stories was during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In the first two WBCs, Ichiro failed to do anything in the opening round in Japan. I was first up with a question at the press conference when Japan arrived in San Diego for the quarterfinal round.

Q: “Do you understand what might be the problem so far? For example is it your timing?

Ichiro: “I have no way of knowing that. Next question.”

Two or three questions later, a guy who writes frequently about Suzuki, asked the same question in Japanese and Suzuki launched into a three minute dissertation on the steps he’d taken to iron out his approach to the plate.

I told that story to Boggs, and said, “You know what it’s like if he doesn’t anticipate what someone is saying or it’s not on his radar?”

Boggs nodded and said, “He doesn’t hear you, and he doesn’t acknowledge you.”

My story on Kyodo News is HERE.