Have you heard about 32 year-old righthanded starter Koji Uehara? He’s a free agent likely to come over from Japan to MLB this winter (no posting fee). I wanted to learn more about him, so I consulted the authority on such matters: Mike Plugh. Mike runs the Uehara Watch blog. He also has Matsuzaka Watch and writes for Baseball Prospectus.
You can read Part 1 of our Q&A here; a few additional questions are below.
Do you know of any specific teams that are expected to pursue Uehara? I’ve read that the Angels like him.
I think the Angels are the team to watch with Uehara, simply because the drafted him out of college many years ago. He almost came to the Majors as a 23-year old, but the lure of the Yomiuri Giants proved too strong to pry him away. There’s a relationship there, albeit one from the distant past. Other than the Angels, I think you’ll see a lot of teams trying to get in on the action. There’s a huge market for Japanese players around the Major Leagues that is only growing. The Mets are very eager to get into Japan again. The Cubs seem to be active as well, and perhaps the Braves. The list may include every MLB club, so it’s a matter of money in the end, just like every other free agent. Would he play for the Mariners with Ichiro in center and Johjima is his backstop? Maybe. A lot of intriguing scenarios are out there.
Tell us a little bit about Koji as a person.
As for his personality, Uehara is very easygoing. He’s a funny guy by all accounts with a good sense of humor. He likes to keep things relaxed, but he’s extremely professional as are almost all Japanese athletes. He has a typically disciplined work ethic and is very focused in practice and on the field. He’d fit in virtually anywhere, although I think he’ll want to play on a winner if given a reasonable choice. He’s over 30 and may have a small window of opportunity to contribute to a championship ballclub.