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A’s sign Hiroyuki Nakajima for two years, $6.5 million

Dec 17, 2012, 6:08 PM EDT

Hiroyuki Nakajima

The A’s moved quickly on to their backup plan after losing out on Stephen Drew, signing import Hiroyuki Nakajima to take over at shortstop, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and others. The San Francisco Chronice’s Susan Slusser reports that it’s a two-year, $6.5 million deal with a $5.5 million option for 2015.

Nakajima, 30, hit .311/.382/.451 with 13 homers and 74 RBI for the Seibu Lions last season, finishing second in the Pacific League in both average and OBP. He was fourth in slugging percentage.

The Lions originally posted Nakajima last winter, with the Yankees winning his rights, but he opted to return to Japan for another year rather than accept a modest offer and a utility role in New York. He was a free agent this time around.

Nakajima’s signing should complete a flexible A’s lineup, which might look something like this:

LF Coco Crisp – S
CF Chris Young – R
DH Yoenis Cespedes – R
RF Josh Reddick – L
3B Josh Donaldson – R
1B Brandon Moss – L
C Derek Norris – R/George Kottaras – L
SS Hiroyuki Nakajima – R
2B Jemile Weeks – S/Scott Sizemore – R

Alternatively, Nakajima or Weeks could hit second and bump Young down to fifth if either impresses in spring training. Also, there will be plenty of movement around the outfield, with Cespedes getting lots of starts there, and Seth Smith is still around as a DH against right-handers.

  1. APBA Guy - Dec 17, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    You’re right about the movement in the outfield, as well as around the infield. Donaldson has to play like he did after his 2nd call-up to keep Sizemore from taking 3rd. Likewise Weeks will be on a short leash at 2B.

    The real keys are:

    How well will the pitching hold up? The kid pitchers ran up heavy workloads on the way to the division championship. Will they have recovered for 2013? Also, Bartolo, what will he deliver sans juice?

    Can the offense maintain? Brandon Moss 2012 was.953 OPS, regression is a given. But how far? And who will step up from the remaining players? Can Reddick maintain his power and improve his OBP? How much more can Cespedes improve? Can any of the infielders contribute offensively?

    If the team can play with as much charisma as they did last year (I’m telling you, it was fun being in the stadium to watch these guys) they can win and draw a decent crowd. Maybe they don’t win the the Division again, but maybe they do. As long as it’s fun being a fan of the A’s again!

    • calcynic - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:14 PM

      I caught 20 games at the Coliseum last year and they won 15 of them. Amazing! If this year is half the fun last year was, were in for a treat.
      I don’t know if Weeks is playing winter ball, but he’s gotta do something to stay in the show. I think we got the best team in the West and I’m looking forward to Nakajima at SS.

  2. crankyfrankie - Dec 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Happy to see the A’s building something great there. With all the nonsense from their neighbor and the commish the breaks are going their way.

    • redassranch - Dec 18, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      I like Sizemore at 2B, if he is healthy. Not flashy in the field, but should be solid and has some pop in the bat.

  3. tuberippin - Dec 18, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Historically, the batting skills of Japanese infielders does not translate to the MLB. Maybe Nakajima can buck that trend, but I’m highly skeptical. Can’t blame the A’s for taking the dive considering the SS market and the fact that Stephen Drew managed to wring almost $10,000,000 from Boston, however.

    • redassranch - Dec 18, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      The A’s mid-infielders batted around .200 last season, expectations are not very high.

      • tuberippin - Dec 18, 2012 at 8:50 PM

        The last three shortstops to come from the NPB to the MLB were Kazuo Matsui, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Munenori Kawasaki.

        Josh Donaldson: 90 wRC+, 1.8 WAR in 2012

        Adam Rosales: 75 wRC+, 0.1 WAR in 48 games in 2012

        Cliff Pennington: 65 wRC+, 1.4 WAR in 2012

        Nishioka: 46 wRC+, -1.4 WAR in 2011, cut 3 games into his 2012 season

        KazMat: one season where his wRC+ was >100 (2008 Astros), 1 season of 2.0 WAR outside of Coors Field; this is the high-water mark for Japanese infield imports

        M. Kawasaki: 35 wRC+, -0.3 WAR, cut 61 games into the 2012 season

        The expectations may not be very high, but the production has historically been even lower than the expectations. That said, Nakajima is projected to have his hitting skills translate to the MLB, to the tune of a wRC+ between 100 and 110, which would make him arguably the best-hitting Japanese infielder to play in the MLB.

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