Potential NPB Returnees
It looks like we could to see a wave of Japanese major leaguers make their respective ways back to Japan this offseason. I don’t expect all these guys to go back to Japan, but some of them will, and I’ve listed in order of probability of actually returning.
- Kenji Johjima – appears to be headed to Hanshin, perhaps as early as the 25th.
- Masahide Kobayashi – Hanshin, Orix, Yokohama and Lotte have all be mentioned as suitors for KobaMasa.
- Yasuhiko Yabuta – Yabuta’s contract with the Royals quietly expired earlier in the month, and he hasn’t been in the news lately but I’ve seen both Yokohama and Lotte mentioned as interested.
- Ken Takahashi – is weighing a return to Japan against taking another shot at MLB. Hiroshima seems to be the obvious destination.
- So Taguchi — Orix wants to bring Taguchi back to where he spent the first part of his career.
- Tomo Ohka — I think he’d rather stay in 3A than go back to Japan, but there has been speculation that Yokohama would have him back. Ohka started his career by the bay.
- Hideki Matsui – For a while during the summer, it looked like both Hanshin and Yomiuri were going to go after Matsui, but his MLB stock has risen and that talk has mostly died down.
- Akinori Iwamura – Aki has stated that his first preference is to remain in Tampa Bay, but Hanshin is reportedly interested in bringing him in. Since Yakult posted him they should still own his NPB rights, so I’m not sure if that move is feasible.
And as a special bonus:
- Eric Hinske — Hinske wouldn’t be an NPB returnee, but the Hawks are reportedly interested in signing him this year. They had him on their list last offseason as well.