Tomohiro Nioka Rumors
Some Japanese baseball-related rumors, courtesy of Patrick Newman at NPB Tracker:
- Seven teams have surfaced in Japanese media reports as suitors for free agent amateur pitcher Junichi Tazawa: the Red Sox, Braves, Mariners, Pirates, Tigers, Cubs, and Phillies. David O'Brien of the AJC says the Braves are "legit players" for Tazawa. The Red Sox are seen as the frontrunner, according to Paul Hoynes. Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald agrees that Boston is in the lead, and adds the Marlins to the mix.
- Reliever Hitoki Iwase will remain in Japan. Shortstop Tomohiro Nioka is a free agent, but may not necessarily come to MLB.
- So Taguchi and Tadahito Iguchi may return to Japan for the '09 season.
- Saburo Ohmura is a 32 centerfielder with an eye on MLB. Newman tells me he profiles as more of a fourth outfielder.
Tomohiro Nioka is a 31-year old shortstop for the Yomiuri Giants. Turns out he was not eligible for free agency this winter, though. I recently asked Bob Bavasi of JapanBall.com about Nioka; his reply is below.
Nioka, the Giants shortstop, missed a good chunk of the season in 2001 and 2004 because of injury. So, even though he has played in nine seasons, nine years being necessary to become a free agent, he lost too much time with injuries during those two years and, therefore, did not qualify. He should be able to file for free agency at the end of the 2008 season if he plays the full schedule.
Let's dig through the ol' mailbag once again. Feel free to shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any news regarding Japanese shortstop Tomohiro Nioka? Is he a free agent and are any teams pursuing him? - Bob
It seems that Nioka turned out to be ineligible for free agency. We'll have to keep an eye out for him next year.
What's up with Joe Crede? Will the ChiSox be looking to deal him this summer if they are struggling? And if so, you have to believe the Phillies would be top contenders for him. - Dan
I'm almost certain Crede will be dealt, I'm just not sure when. Maybe after a week or two of proving his health in Spring Training? Josh Fields needs his reps at third base, so I'd be surprised if the Sox started the season with Crede at the hot corner. The Phillies seem like the perfect fit, especially since Kenny Williams and Pat Gillick have gotten together for many deals.
Have you heard anything about a package of Snell and Bay from Pittsburgh to the M's for some prospects? - Aaron
Jake at Bucco Blog heard this rumor just a few days ago. Both of them going to Seattle would represent a whole lot of talent. Seems that it would require Adam Jones and then some. Might make more sense for the Mariners to target just Snell, since they're in fine shape in the outfield.
SNY's Ted Berg has an informative blog post about Japanese pitchers who may come over to MLB for the 2008 season (found via MetsBlog). Berg discusses the situations of Koji Uehara, Hiroki Kuroda, Kenshin Kawakami, Hitoki Iwase, Masahide Kobayashi, and Kazumi Saito.
Tomohiro Nioka is a 31 year-old shortstop for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan. He's starting to generate a little buzz as a possible MLB crossover this winter, especially given the weak free agent shortstop market.
Nioka will be a free agent this winter (no posting fee required). I haven't seen any recent quotes indicating that he wants to come over here, but he did say "I'd most definitely consider playing in the Major Leagues" back in 2003.
The Daily Herald's Scot Gregor notes that the White Sox could opt to pursue Nioka over Juan Uribe. The Sox have had success in the past with the Tadahito Iguchi and Shingo Takatsu signings. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star expects Nioka to come over, but doesn't see the Jays signing him.
Nioka hit .295/.346/.457 with 20 HR in 508 ABs this year. You can find his earlier numbers here. I talked to one Japanese fan who considers Nioka a poor man's Akinori Iwamura. He ranks Nioka's defense as good but not great.
It seems likely that Nioka's teammate, pitcher Koji Uehara, will attempt the jump to MLB this year. Perhaps Nioka will follow suit and plug a hole for the White Sox, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Giants, or Cardinals.