Jim Albright / the japanese insider
The 2008 Review of NPB Free Agents, Posted Players, and Players to Watch
By Jim Albright
Note: Player salaries are calculated based upon the December 31, 2007 exchange rate of about 112 yen to the dollar, or $89.52 per 10,000 Yen.
A. 2008 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.
The big catch among Japanese imports in 2008. He had an elbow injury in 2006, and an ankle problem in 2004. When he's healthy, though, he can give you good outfield defense, a .300 average, a .400 OBP and a .500 slugging percentage. You've got to love that combination.
He's the biggest pitching name to come this year, which means the crop isn't overwhelming in of top talent. I was higher on Kuroda last year than I am now, as his homers allowed were up this season, as were his walks, runs and earned runs allowed. It's possible this is simply a statistical blip, but you've got to worry that for a pitcher who will be 33 in spring training that it's the beginning of a trend. If it is indeed the beginning of a trend, it's a bad sign for his career. One note: when I've looked at my evaluations of pitchers, it seems the most accurate indicator of MLB performance has been the average of the past five seasons, so I've included that in the information provided.
This guy has decided to stay in Japan in 2008, despite the fact he would have been the best pitcher available from Japan this year. He hasn't decided whether he'll sign a one or four year deal as I write this, so it's unclear whether he'll be coming over at all. He may be looking for a better season this year than last to secure a bigger contract, but I think he would have done well enough without risking the big payday by returning to Japan in 2008. Time will tell if he made a wise choice.
He will be 34 this year, and he could be a decent middle reliever, but I don't see him as likely to be anything more than that. A note is that he's definitely a guy that gives my conversion of saves from Japan to the majors fits, as the numbers given seem unquestionably seriously high to me.
He'll be 35 this year, but I like him better than Kobayashi because for the past four years, he's been better in three, and the one time he wasn't was 2005, and it wasn't a huge difference. Since he had a bad 2003, he might be an exception to the rule that the five year average is the best predictor. If you used only the past four, he'd be expected to post an ERA under 4. That kind of pitcher you can use.
He's 40, and if he starts, I'd expect him to post an ERA over 5. I wouldn't want him unless I had a contending team with a hole in the rotation and couldn't find anyone who I didn't think was better or at least was close with more potential. Then, he might be worth a shot, but that scenario wouldn't come together very often in my book. I'd probably be more interested in younger guys coming off injuries who were trying to resurrect their careers than Shimoyanagi. Shimoyanagi's old and could easily prove washed up very soon, and the best you can reasonably hope for is a decent short term starting pitcher. If he can make the switch to relieving, he might have some value as a lefty platoon specialist, though I personally hate giving a roster spot to a guy like that, much less when he's 40 and switching from being a starter.
He had a very nice 2006, and close to mediocre in 2005, but otherwise he hasn't been the kind of guy I'd be anxious to have in my bullpen, primarily because unless the game was already out of hand against me, he'd make me anxious about how my team would fare after he started pitching. I guess he came cheap enough, but I'd rather have my team spend the money on someone younger with a better upside potential.
He was a free agent, but is staying in Japan. He's definitely showing signs of age, so it seems he made the right decision to stay. However, he was a star at one time, and I felt it would be interesting to see how he might have performed in the majors.
B. NPB Players Posted for 2007 MLB Season
I am not aware of any postings this season.
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 2007.
The standards for a player to make this section are that first, the player must be less than 30 years old on April 1, 2007, 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 rebounded a bit last year, but he's a catcher already showing signs of wear. Moreover, he's just signed a four year deal, which means he's unlikely to come over before he's 33. That's on the old side for a catcher, much less one already possibly near the point of serious decline.