New Imports: Penn, Caraballo

» 08 July 2010 » In nichibei, npb »

Update on Penn: Pirates beat writer Dejan Kovacevic has tempered the Penn discussion a bit, saying that it’s only an inquiry so far. Here’s a more complete translation of what originally appeared in Sponichi: “Team representative Ishikawa has traveled to America and is in the midst of negotiations. It appears that an agreement is impending, with an official announcement to happen following a decision on the acquisition.” Originally that was one Japanese sentence but I busted it into two for readability.

A couple of items to note as we inch toward NPB’s July 31 player acquisition deadline…

  • Just as I praise the Orix Buffaloes for a series of out-of-the-box moves, they go and make another, signing outfielder Francisco Caraballo out of the independent Baseball Challenge (BC) League. Caraballo hadn’t played higher than 2A ball in America, but moved to Indy ball in Japan last year where he lead the Island League in home runs (18) and RBI (76). This year he was hitting .364 with 15 HR and 46 RBI in 37 games for the Gunma Diamond Pegasus of the BC League. Thanks to the always-on Passer By for the tip on this one.
  • Meanwhile, Chiba Lotte is closing in on an agreement to bring in Hayden Penn, who is currently playing for the Pirates’ 3A affiliate. Rotation depth is Lotte’s weakness, particularly with Yuki Karakawa on the shelf, and the Marines have a foreign roster spot to allocate, so another starter is a sensible acquisition.

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  1. Patrick
    09/07/2010 at 3:09 am Permalink

    You know, I saw Caraballo play last year in Kochi, and I also saw him play this year for Gunma, and he freaking scares me. (I have a photo of him with Gunma in my recent Niigata roadtrip post, and I have a whole bunch more from the next day when I saw another game in Gunma, but haven’t had time to do the photo set.) I had just been wondering why the hell no NPB team here had ever taken a flier on him, since he generally tears up the indie leagues here. Hell, after the Gunma-Niigata game that Sunday, I was chatting with the starting pitcher for Niigata, and rather than being disappointed that the bullpen gave up his lead and so on, the first thing he said was “I really hate pitching to Caraballo.”

    Unfortunately I’ve never actually talked to Caraballo himself, but I hope he does well with Orix.

    And hey, maybe this means there’ll be some more equilibrium in the BCL — Caraballo’s 15 home runs was more than any other TEAM had hit, total.

  2. Patrick
    09/07/2010 at 8:47 am Permalink

    Actually one of the articles said that Yakult was interested in him too. The foreign player restriction really hurts this class of players, which is a shame because this type of prospect is really a lot more interesting than the Freddie Bynums of the world (with all due respect to Bynum).

  3. Patrick
    12/07/2010 at 6:27 pm Permalink

    I think the NPB should not count players as foreign unless they have played in another major league (MLB or KBO). Scouting unsigned players from Latin America and developing baseball nations should be encouraged, not restricted like it is now.

  4. Patrick
    13/07/2010 at 11:49 pm Permalink

    The foreigner limit is all about letting Japanese players get playing time in Japan — why would they want to let in more non-Japanese players to take up Japanese roster spots?

    Though, actually, there are usually a handful of unproven players from other countries who end up on ikusei contracts and thus barely cost the team anything and don’t actually take up a roster spot. The Carp also runs (ran?) a Dominican academy of sorts. So they already do some scouting and player development of guys from other countries — notably, a lot of kids from Taiwan seem to find their way over here, too. (And of course the rumors go that they bring the kids from Taiwan over in their teens, throw them in Japanese high schools, and then they don’t count against the foreigner limit anyway.)

    But the bottom line is that NPB is a Japanese league in Japan for Japanese players and Japanese fans. I’m sometimes surprised they don’t shrink the foreigner limit, all things considered.

  5. Patrick
    14/07/2010 at 8:21 am Permalink

    I agree with Marc. I published the same idea two years ago (

    For me, removing the restrictions on players signed as amateurs wouldn’t be about letting foreign players take Japanese players’ playing time, it would be about letting everyone compete fairly for playing time, thus making the whole league better for all the players.

    And Deanna is right — there already is a bunch of development in foreign players that goes on. But the teams that invest the most in development aren’t always rewarded with playing time for young foreign players. An example is the Giants with Wirfin Obispo — Obispo is pretty clearly capable of pitching at the ichi-gun level, but he has to compete with a bunch of foreign veterans for playing time. Of course it is the team’s choice to go with veterans rather than prospects, but I feel that sustained competitiveness will come with developing talent, and this should be incented.

  6. Patrick
    14/07/2010 at 8:22 am Permalink

    As Deanna says, domestic teams need to cater to the domestic fans. Yes, Japanese fans cheer for foreign players who help to complete their team, making it more competitive. But a team of mostly foreigners will not sell well (except as a rival like the tall blond in pro wrestling).

    One Asian league tried the “foreign players will helps us be more competitive” strategy, the CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan). Back when they were also competing against the TML (Taiwan Major League) for fans, several teams were made up almost exclusively of foreign players on the starting rosters. The fans showed their objections by voting zero foreign players to the All Star teams, the top vote getter, if I recall correctly, having never played a single game for the top team.

    I have a feeling that some of the owners in NPB would willingly do away with the foreign player limit in an attempt to make their teams stronger. Attempts to make an exemption for other Asian players (Korea, Taiwan, and China) have met resistance from not only the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA), but from the commissioners of both the KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) and CPBL.

    Furthermore, this is a different market than you have in North America. Things will be run differently (for better or worse). It’s not a matter of what’s right or wrong. It’s a matter of appealing to fans and appeasing the neighbor leagues. (When a Pan-Pacific League is finally formed in the distant future, such issues will be lessoned to a large degree.)

  7. Patrick
    15/07/2010 at 7:09 am Permalink


    The post-gazette link doesn’t work anymore because it’s gone pay-paper. But some kind of announcement will be made in a few days.

    With “international free agents” comes the inequality of haves and havenots. To me, it’s more about what is wrong with the current draft. As things stand right now, it’s clearest to determine whether a player is foreign based on his draft eligibility. Tweaking the foreign limit will increase loopholes.

  8. Patrick
    John Brooks
    18/07/2010 at 3:06 pm Permalink

    Looks like Penn is heading on his way to Japan. [<a href=";] Though there’s still no word from any official transactions mentioning him going through waivers which would be needed IIRC. Though this source seems more reputable coming from the Indianapolis Indians radio announcer.

  9. Patrick
    John Brooks
    18/07/2010 at 3:13 pm Permalink

    More on Penn from Huntington:

    >On Hayden Penn going to Japan: “The inquiry came from Japan. We’re still working through some details, so it’s not a done deal, but enough that we took him out of activity. It’s something where the agent went to Hayden, and he had a significant interest in pursuing it. The money was such that he felt it was important for him, and we reluctantly agreed. We could have said no. Part of us wanted to say no. But as we looked at where he sits now, the depth chart, the options status … it was tough to stand in the way.”