Potential NPB Returnees

» 22 October 2009 » In nichibei, npb »

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Trackback URL

  1. Patrick
    23/10/2009 at 6:37 am Permalink

    Hanshin’s always long offseason shopping list is partly Kansai tabloid fodder.. to be taken with a large grain of salt 😛

  2. Patrick
    Aaron S.
    23/10/2009 at 4:44 pm Permalink

    As a Yankee fan I have been witness to much of Matsui’s late-season resurgence. While it has been well-timed and enjoyable to watch, I don’t in any way think that he is likely to resign with the Yankees once he becomes a free agent after the World Series. In fact, I have felt this way for much of this season knowing that his contract was going to expire.

    In short, I had a hunch earlier this season that he may consider returning to Japan. Part of this is kind of an honor thing. I lived overseas for five years during my adolescence (3 years in Singapore, 2 in Hong Kong) and saw some of the honor and pride of the Japanese culture. For Matsui, he was a star there. And if I’m not mistaken, spent his entire Japanese career with one team? He came to MLB to play for the storied Yankees (sure, I’m a little biased there but let’s face it, the Yankees are known around the world) and has spent his whole career there. He probably knows his time might be up in NY so why move on to another MLB city? He could go back to Japan, play another 2-4 seasons and add a little more to his legacy there and then retire in comfort in his native home.

    I don’t know, I didn’t mean to prolong that explanation there but I can see him actually making the move to return home. If so, good luck to him. Love the site guys!

  3. Patrick
    24/10/2009 at 12:22 am Permalink

    The Yankees roster is full of guys who are rather old and/or not the best defensive players in the game. They need the DH spot to give ARod, Posada, Teixeira, Jeter, Damon (if they resign him) an “off day” without losing them in the lineup. Matsui won’t come back for the Yankees but his usually reliable production makes him attractive for other teams.
    Return to Japan? In the CL where he would end up most likely (Hanshin which he was a fan of when he was younger or the Giants) Matsui would have to play in the field. Unless he switches to first base that seems pretty unlikely.

    Speaking of the Yankees: Chances that Kei Igawa returns to Japan? We talked about this on another occasion so a quick reminder: if he’s not on the 40 man roster coming offseason he can file for free agency (but probably lose his nice 4 mio $/year paycheck) but if he returns to Japan the Tigers would still own contract rights.

  4. Patrick
    24/10/2009 at 5:32 am Permalink

    Tampa still has a team option on Iwamura. My guess is that the Rays will use it, even if they also have Zobrist at 2nd.

  5. Patrick
    24/10/2009 at 7:41 am Permalink

    Yeah, I think Matsui will stay in the American League and DH somewhere. He would pretty much have to play 1st base on either Hanshin or Yomiuri.

    Does Igawa actually have an opt-out clause? I thought he did, but someone commented that he didn’t, and I was unable to find any proof of it. Of course, Johjima’s opt-out clause wasn’t hugely publicized either.

  6. Patrick
    25/10/2009 at 2:54 am Permalink

    Matsui has already expressed in the past that he would switch to first base. That would open up the possibility to play in the NL.

    As far as I know Igawa wouldn’t need an opt out clause. It’s probably one of the machanisms that prevent teams from burying players in the minor leagues forever.
    Don’t know if Igawa is Rule 5 eligible this year (Gammons thought he was already last year but IMO that wasn’t true at all). I could also imagine that Igawa ends up as a throw-in in a trade with the Yankees eating up some part of is contract.


  1. [...] NPB Radar? By Mike Silva ~ October 24th, 2009. Filed under: Japanese Baseball. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker reports…

  2. [...] the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, a Japanese team (Pacific League), are interested in signing Eric Hinske this offseason. They like…