UPDATE: The deal is done – Kobayashi gets $6MM guaranteed over 2008-09 and has a $3.25MM club option for 2010. This seems like a fine Indians-esque bargain.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Indians are close to signing Japanese reliever Masahide Kobayashi. The 33 year-old is taking his physical today. The Braves and Mariners were also known to have interest in him. It’s been said that Kobayashi would prefer to close but it’s not a dealbreaker.
Here’s what Bob Bavasi of JapanBall told me about Kobayashi:
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.
And here’s what Aaron Shinsano and Jackson Broder of East Windup Chronicle said about him:
Lost seven games and ERA rose nearly a point in 2007, but that shouldn’t deter teams from pursuing this 200+ save closer for Chiba Lotte. Throws from the stretch, and has that deceptive delivery that scouts seem to like these days. Has a great forkball that often tails in toward the batter. Not as good as Iwase or Koji Uehara, but might just be an upgrade over, say, The Farns. Tak adds that he was dropped to the "minors" at the end of the season and many feel his velocity and control are slipping.
OK, Tim here again. Just wanted to add that Rosenthal also reiterated that the Royals are close on Yasuhiko Yabuta. Mark Gonzales had previously said five teams were still in the running for him.