Jim Albright / the japanese insider
The 2006 Review of NPB Free Agents, Posted Players, and Players to Watch
By Jim Albright
Note: Player salaries are calculated based upon the November 3, 2005 exchange rate of about 117 yen to the dollar, or $85.47 per 10,000 Yen.
A. 2006 NPB Free Agents
The guys in this section are either former major leaguers who are free agents, at least arguably played at a major league starting level, are free agents under the age of 35, or have given serious indications they want to go to the majors.
He's 33, and only in the contract year of 2005 has he looked like a decent major league pitcher. He got that far by significantly reducing his walks and homers. He's still projected to give up a hit an inning. If he comes cheap, he might be an OK fourth or fifth starter, but there's a significant chance he won't even perform that well.
He really went backward in 2005, such that you've got to worry about age and/or arm trouble. If he can't do any better than 2005, at 35 he's too old to be taking up space even at AAA. On the other hand, if he can recapture his form of 2002-2004, he'd be a great addition. If he wants to come, his arm checks out, he might be a good gamble, especially if he comes cheap. If even one of the three conditions in the previous sentence isn't met, though, I'd avoid him like the plague.
He'll be 36 by spring training and is coming off of two subpar to lousy years. He might have been a good player in 2001 and 2002, but by now the fact he's available and interested in coming to the majors would be meaningless to me.
Not a bad player, but at age 37, I'd only be interested if I needed to fill a hole for a year and could live with him as a reserve for the rest of his contract.
He's a 34 year old lefty hitting outfielder who's been playing at the level of a solid major league outfielder. If he wants to come over (especially cheap) and if you need to fill a corner outfield spot for 2 or 3 years, he might be a decent gamble.
He's probably washed up from a major league perspective now. He's really here to show what he did in Japan. 2001 is his record-tying 55 homer year. I don't think that a career year like that was impossible for him in the majors if he hit the weights like he did in Japan. The next three years aren't bad, but they don't knock your socks off. Call this a small lesson in the differences between the leagues.
I have no indications he wants to come to the majors. He's 34 and had a serious drop in power this year. If he's interested in coming cheap, he might be a decent gamble at third, but otherwise, I'd stay away.
He isn't renowned for his glove in Japan, so I think I'd pass on a 34 year old middle infielder with no power. Better to try some kid who might stick around a few years.
He broke his shin late in the season to end his year. That's got to be a concern. While there aren't many available catchers who can hit as well as he can, I have some concern over the drops in on base percentage and power. Catchers can age oh so fast. Other than the possible language issue (I have no idea how Jojima's English is), he would seem to be a good receiver. He will have a steep learning curve, though, since he has to to learn both a new league of hitters and a new pitching staff. I'd expect he'll work as hard as Japanese players are schooled to do to take care of that ASAP, though.
B. NPB Players Posted for 2006 MLB Season
No players have been posted at this time. No team has, to my knowledge, agreed to post any player this season. If either of the previous two sentences become invalid, this section will be updated as soon as my schedule permits.
C. NPB Players to Watch
The players in the preceding sections are either free agents, have been posted, or at least have a commitment from the NPB team they play for that they will be posted. The following players aren't going to the majors in 2006.
The standards for a player to make this section are that first, the player must be less than 30 years old on April 1, 2006, and meet one of the following two criteria: a) have accumulated at least 200 rtg2 points in his career to date or b) be a pitcher with at least 100 career estimated win shares (EWS) in his career to date. The first standard eliminates those players who are too old to be regarded as hot prospects for the majors in 2006 or after. The second set of requirements are designed to ensure that the players selected are rather high quality talents in Japan.
He had another fine year in 2005, but the team that has his rights, the Swallows, are going to hang on to him. The only bad year he had in the past four is 2003, when he had a wrist injury.
He was hurt in 2004, and I expected he'd bounce back. He did that, to be sure. He's got some power, and when healthy has had good averages and on base percentages. He's also been good enough with the leather to capture two Gold Gloves. The bottom line is that he's got a lot to offer, even at the major league level. In 2005, he hit like Bobby Abreu and played a good centerfield. You've got to love that.
He's shown some really nice hitting numbers for a catcher, though it would be nice if he could replicate the 2004 power. That season was shortened by injury.