Akira Niho, a 31-year-old right-hander who pitched on the periphery of the SoftBank Hawks’ starting rotation the past two seasons, moved to the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers on Friday in a deal that sent 28-year-old first baseman-outfielder Masahiro Nakatani home to Fukuoka Prefecture to play for the Pacific League powerhouse.
By NPB standards, where teams are forever reluctant to part with any player of value that might make them look bad with post-trade production for another team, this is a remarkably big trade of two players who are actually useful.
Niho has pitched twice for the Hawk’s top club this season, while Nakatani has not been away from the Tigers’ Western League team.
Niho, who’s also from Fukuoka, is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA with 46 strikeouts, 13 walks and three home runs allowed in 63 Western League innings. Nakatani has slashed .266/.333./.409 in 225 plate appearances.
The Hawks have not been hitting and with the imminent return of Kodai Senga, who suffered an ankle injury in his season debut, Niho’s value as a replacement was probably diminished.
In his lone season as a Tigers regular, the right-handed hitting Nakatani hit 20 home runs, not an easy feat at Koshien.