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Top 3 Japanese Free Agents

I asked JapanBall's Bob Bavasi for his thoughts on the Top 3 Japanese Free Agents who may come over to MLB this winter.  He kindly obliged, providing a couple of paragraphs on each.  His summaries are below.

1. Kosuke Fukudome, Dragons.  Left-handed hitting outfielder from the Dragons in Nagoya.  Can play any outfield position, but probably best in right.  A solid, no-nonsense type player, with a terrific glove and sound arm, he’s the best Japanese position player in either league.  Absolutely no secret about this guy. 

2. Hiroki Kuroda, RHP, Hiroshima Carp.  This fellow is probably a number three or four starter in the big leagues.   Was 12-8 this season in 26 starts with a 3.56 ERA.  A free agent last year, he decided to stay in Japan by signing a four-year deal with the Carp, but with a clause therein that allows him to test the waters when he so desires.  He’s probably going to do so now.  The Carp just announced that his arm was okay after a medical exam in the United States.  If you're looking for more info on Kuroda, check out this post at East Windup Chronicle.

3. Masahide Kobayashi, RHP, Chiba Lotte Marines.  This closer was the number one draft pick by the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1999.  He may be the best available reliever on the free agent market, though he has not made the sort of overtures about wanting to leave Japan as the other two.  During the recent playoffs in Japan, his manager, Bobby Valentine, noted that Kobayashi keeps "looking better every time out.”  True enough, and a reason I like him.


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Well, the first sentence he said was untrue.. Fukudome is a left handed batter


The fanboy in me wants to know the odds of either Fukudome or Kobayashi ending up with the Indians, with the former playing left. I'd say slim--UNLESS the Matsuzaka situation makes teams afraid of overpaying, thereby actually undervaluing them (as in, unless the Indians can get a bargain).

The baseball guy in me just wants to know who you think they'll end up with.

Hey Tim are you going to be doing your top 50 free agents and predicted destinations again this year? Also did you notice Rob Neyer quoted your Yankees rumors entry in his blog today

My brother is currently living in Chiba and absolutely hates Kobayashi. I actually got to see him pitch 3 weeks ago against the Giants and I don't think he made it out of the 2nd or 3rd inning. We were actually staying at the Mariners official hotel and walked right by Bobby at one point.

Because of Okajima's success in Boston, I believe the Red Sox will be major players for Japanese relievers.

If there's a competition for a free agent reliever, I believe the Red Sox have the edge in signing him.

They are a very popular team in Japan, with two established Japanese players already on the roster. They can also offer a better contract than most teams.

Hopefully somebody does a scouting report on Japanese pitchers who are getting posted or are free agents.

whoops I believe they've got two Kobayashis. I confused the starter with the closer.

Neil - good call, I corrected it.

Nick - Fukudome seems like no chance, Kobayashi perhaps slightly possible.

Jake - Probably shortly after the WS I'll do the Top 50. And that Neyer reference was sweet, I hadn't realized that!

Does anyone know who the top Japanese free agent Short Stops there are? Or where I can find this info? Much appreciated.

Here's the full list of Japanese free agents:

You can click on the player names for further info (stats, positions, etc.).

Yes, there are 2 Kobayashis on the Marines' roster. Hiroyuki is the starter; he went 13-3 with a 2.69 ERA. He isn't a free agent, though. Masahide, the closer, struggled most of the year and was briefly demoted to the minors as punishment (imagine that happening in MLB). He finished 2-7, 3.61, 27 saves, but did well in the playoffs before the Marines were eliminated by the Fighters.

The only free agent shortstop of note is Tomohiro Nioka of the Yomiuri Giants. He's been mentioned several times by Tim. He hit .295/.346/.457 with 20 homers and 83 RBIs. None of the other free-agent SS are that impressive. Most are nearing the ends of their careers and will be lucky to be signed as part-timers or backups in Japan next season.

Besides the 3 guys mentioned in this post, the other "big" names are Chunichi Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase (43 saves, 2.44), Yokohama right-hander Daisuke Miura (11-13, 3.06), Hiroshima third baseman Takahiro Arai (.290-28-102), Giants outfielder Takahashi Yoshinobu (.308-35-88), Seibu Lions outfielder Kazuhiro Wada (.315-18-49) and Fukuoka first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka (.266-15-68), who has slipped since winning the triple crown in 2004.

Out of that group, only Iwase has expressed an interest to come to MLB, but others might have heard differently. Should be interesting to see who ends up where.

And yes, I have too much time on my hands to have studied the Japanese leagues this much. (sigh)

You're saying this new Japanese outfielder is better than Ichiro? I'm not sure I buy that

Nioka...are we sure he's a FA? I know RotoWorld said he wasn't, and I didn't see him on the list.

You're right, Nioka isn't a free agent. I suppose he could be posted. I believe he's a free agent after next season.

So in that regard, there are no MLB-worthy free-agent SS out of Japan this season.

And as for the Ichiro-Fukudome comparisons, they're very different types of players. Fukudome is more comparable to Hideki Matsui. Matsui had more power in Japan, while Fukudome was rated as a bit better defender who could hit for a higher average. I think what was said was that Fukudome was the best hitter playing in Japan right now, not the best Japanese player in the world. I'd take Ichiro over Fukudome, but that's mainly because leadoff hitters of his caliber are few and far between.

totallyoff topic but i thought of some trade senarios

Edgar Renteria for nate robertson and a mid level prospect. from a braves fan view thi gets a B-

Edgar and Oscar V for noah Lowry B

K Johnson,Hansen, and acosta for Dan Haren A

Edgar and a prospect for Ian Snell A-

Edgar and Acosta for N Robertson and Jair Jurrgens B+

Edgar and a prospect for Rich Hill A

Edgar for S Marshall and Patterson C

Edgar and Villy for Garland D+

Edgar and Acosta for Colby Rasmus B+
thats all i can think of right now but tell me what you think!

Derrick, I like the Edgar for pitching scenario, but the Haren and Rasmus trades have 0% of happening.

Of course, no topic is complete until there is an Edgar Renteria deal proposed. :)

Edgar and Oscar V for noah Lowry B -

Maybe, if you think lowry is worth it. This can happen.

K Johnson,Hansen, and acosta for Dan Haren -

No chance.

"Edgar and a prospect for Ian Snell A- "

Maybe. Might need prospects changing hands to even things out, but Braves and Bucks have shown ability to make trades.

"Edgar and Acosta for N Robertson and Jair Jurrgens B+"

Not sure Detroit would give up Jurgens in the deal. They could just sign a guy like Eckstein or Wilson. They wont have Edgars bat, but they keep their pitchers. I dont see it.

"Edgar and a prospect for Rich Hill A"

Again, dont see it. The Cubs need a lefty bat if anything, and again, Hill is pretty young, lefty, cheap, and coming into his own. Pitching is to valuable.

"Edgar for S Marshall and Patterson C"

Better chance then Hill, Braves might need to add a prospect there. Possible.

"Edgar and Villy for Garland D+"

Again, probably can happen, but is Garland worth it?

"Edgar and Acosta for Colby Rasmus B+"

No shot in hell.

Thats how I feel atleast.

I could see a Joe Blanton/ Edgar Swap with prospects changing hands also. I just hope the Mets arent the team to trade solid young talent for Blanton.

great response and the grades on the side are what as a Braves fan i would think of them! the only reason I added Haren was because obrein in the AJC keeps on mentioning him.

""Edgar for S Marshall and Patterson C"

Better chance then Hill, Braves might need to add a prospect there. Possible."

The Cubs would do that tomorrow...and believe me, as a Cubs fan, I love both Marshall and Patterson, but the one easy way to upgrade for the Cubs is at SS, and Rent is a GREAT way to do it without losing too much from last year. Patterson will be good...but the cubs have about 73 2nd base prospects right now...

'Edgar and a prospect for Ian Snell A-'

This trade should never happen, it is the exact opposite of rebuilding philosophy that the pirates SHOULD be taking. I emphasize SHOULD because they surprise me at times.

Same goes for the A's even if you changed it to Blanton.

Rebuilding teams for the most part don't want expensive veterans that are going to FA's in exchange for good young starting pitching.

cubs and tigers match up since they need a SS. And I can't tell if the White Sox are rebuilding or retooling a mediocre team, but they might make sense.

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