My Favorite Offseason Trades

» 17 April 2011 » In npb »

Forward: I’ve had this one in “draft” status since November. If I actually finish it, it’ll be a new record for the post I took the longest amount of time to complete.

When I started drafting this post, it was about one trade: Yomiuri sending Wirfin Obispo to Nippon Ham for Hideki Sunaga and Toshimasa Konta. Then another trade worth writing about took place, but we’ll get to that later. First Obispo.

Graded on pure upside, the Obispo deal is a nice win for Nippon Ham. Obispo had a rough 2010, struggling with reduced velocity, but he’s still not really a finished product and worth taking a chance on. Assuming he’s not injured, he still has a good arm, and he showed in 2009 that he can contribute at the ichi-gun level. Yomiuri’s return offers much more limited upside. Sunaga a rather unpolished lefty reliever, who hasn’t been able to stick at ichi-gun, while Konta is a fifth outfielder/pinch runner type.

I didn’t quite get what Yomiuri saw in this trade until spring training, when I saw both Sunaga and Konta play in exhibition games. Sunaga seemed rough but may have some potential as a lefty specialist. Konta’s skills as a defensive replacement and pinch runner will come in handy for a team featuring aging outfielders Yoshinobu Takahashi and Alex Ramirez. Additionally, the Giants are stacked with foreign pitchers it was going to be difficult to find roster time for Obi-chan. So I like this deal for both sides, but the early returns favor the Giants. Obispo gave up five runs in one inning in his Nippon Ham debut, while Konta has already appeared in five games for the Giants.

So that was my favorite trade of the offseason, until Orix heisted Hayato Terahara (and Kazuya Takamiya) from Yokohama for Shogo Yamamoto and Go Kida. Unlike the Obispo-Sunaga/Konta deal, I still haven’t seen the logic in the Yokohama side on this one. I recall reading that the official word was that the BayStars weren’t happy with their lefty rotation options. That’s reasonable enough, but Yamamoto seems like a poor return for Terahara. Maybe Terahara plus another player could have pried Kenji Ohtonari away from Softbank, for example. In fairness to Yokohama though, we don’t have the luxury of knowing who was available on the trade market and what the asking prices were. And there is always some injury risk to Terahara, but if he’s healthy, he offers significantly more value than Yamamoto, regardless of which arm he throws with.

Through the first week of the season, Orix has the better of the Terahara-Yamamoto deal. Yamamoto has already made two starts for Yokohama, but has given up eight earned runs in 11 innings pitcher. Meanwhile, Terahara threw a shutout against Softbank on the second day of the season.

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  1. Patrick
    Billy D
    18/04/2011 at 4:36 am Permalink

    Another trade I like is Seibu stealing Sakamoto from Yokohama (for Oonuma). If we look at their numbers:

    坂元弥太郎 (Sakamoto):
    career 9 years, 211 appearances, 368.1 IP, 48HR, 131 BB, 20 HBP, 292 K, 4.89 ERA,  1.38 WHIP

    大沼幸二 (Oonuma):
    通算:10年 登板234 投球回436.1 被本塁打52 与四球226 与死球12 奪三振325 防御率4.45 WHIP1.57

    Even though he pitched at the Pacific League (with DH), Sakamoto’s WHIP and strikeout rate beats Oonuma by a significant amount (7.13 K9 vs. 6.7 K9).

    Oonuma had his best year in 2009: 54 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.35 WHIP。

    Sakamoto (Nippon Ham, 2008): 51投球回 防御率3.18 WHIP1.16。

    I asked around, and the general consensus was that Yokohama like Oonuma’s ability to be a long-man.

    By the way, DeGavph commented recently that Korea’s Doosan Bears is looking at Bannister.

    Is it possible that though Banny is placed on the “Seiken” player list, Yomiuri can still call the situation resolved and then trade Banny to the Bears?

  2. Patrick
    18/04/2011 at 3:56 pm Permalink

    The Obispo trade hit me and my friends pretty hard, but for different reasons…

    Sunaga’s been a ton of potential for a while. Of course, I was a fan for completely subjective reasons — he’s a nice kid, he’s from Arakawa (where I was teaching JHS, and his parents have a restaurant there too, much like Hichori), he went to Urawa Gakuin, and in my cheering group, he was pretty popular (case in point: and those cheering cloth banners were all handmade by a friend of mine, and she got Sunaga to sign them all). Much like a lot of the Kamagaya crew, people saw him as being juuuuuuuust not quite good enough to play at ichi-gun, but he was likeable enough that we all really wanted him to succeed.

    Konta hit my other group of friends a lot harder — we were actually CALLED “Team 52” because the majority of people in the group were Konta fans. As in, when we put down our plastic mats before games, we’d label it as “Team 52, 6 people” or whatever, and other fans knew that was us. Konta himself, he didn’t play often in games — usually as a late-innings replacement or a lefty bench bat — but he was disproportionately popular among people given his amount of playing time, seriously. I remember being surprised by how many Konta jerseys I saw during my first trip to the Sapporo Dome a few years ago. What bugged a lot of Fighters fans in this trade too was that we’d just watched Takahito Kudoh go a year or two earlier to the Giants — it just seemed like they were picking up all of our beloved 4th outfielders and throwing them into the sea of Giants backup players. I know that sounds ridiculous if you haven’t gotten involved in cheering groups in Japan, but remember that each player has their own song and their own fan following regardless of how good or bad they actually are as a player — so we actually do get kind of attached to even our bench guys.

    And Team 52 hasn’t actually renamed itself yet. (Last I heard they were considering a particular nickname we attached to Kensuke Tanaka, but figured it wasn’t one we wanted getting out into the general populace. Plus we’re all positive he’s going to ditch the Fighters this winter anyway.)

    Anyway, I think the trade sucked for the Fighters. If nothing else, trading for a foreign player just seems pretty crazy to me.

    I also agree that the Yataro for Ohnuma trade was ridiculously good for Seibu. Ohnuma was one of those relief pitchers that we were generally HAPPY to see come in, as fans of the opposing team.

  3. Patrick
    18/04/2011 at 4:49 pm Permalink

    I certainly get the different relationship between the players and the fans (although the Hanshin fans I hung around with were a little more ambivalent “Yabu’s going to MLB? Good luck!”).

    Hypothetically, how do you think ouen-dan fans would feel about a deal that sends away a likeable bench player, but unquestionably makes the team better? I’m not saying that’s the case with Obi-chan, because there are definitely questions with him. It’s more of a question about the psychology of the ouen-dan, which I haven’t spent any time in since 2003.

  4. Patrick
    18/04/2011 at 5:50 pm Permalink

    Well, so the thing is, people always will accept the trades eventually. It’s just a matter of how long it takes, depending on how popular the guy is who got traded, or how unpopular the guy is who we received. For example, we HATED the Nioka trade when it happened. HATED. Like “What’s going on, we just lost our closer and our 4th outfielder who we just made a cheer song for this year, and we’re getting a washed-up scandal-ridden guy who we don’t need along with another lefty reliever?” But I dunno, there were enough people in Sapporo who had been Giants fans in the time period before the Fighters were in Hokkaido, back when Nioka was the Hayato Sakamoto of his day, and I mean, people do perfectly know the feeling of “I don’t like him, but he’s on my team, so I’m going to support him”, and eventually people just warmed up to Nioka, especially once he started producing.

    And the more popular players that got traded, often will get a cheer from their former team’s fans when they come to town, the first few times at least. I still remember a bunch of Fighters fans in Yokohama last spring asking me how to say in English “COME BACK TO THE FIGHTERS!!” so they could all yell it to Terrmel Sledge…

    It’s just weird, the Fighters seem to have an awful lot of these big offseason trades every year, compared to the other teams.

  5. Patrick
    18/04/2011 at 8:49 pm Permalink

    I was going to include the Nioka trade in my comment, but I decided to delete it. I also thought that was a horrible deal for Nippon Ham at the time; taking Nioka off the Giants’ hands AND giving them something of value in return just seemed too generous. But fast forward two years and Hayashi has probably been the best player who changed hands in that trade.

    Back to the Obi-chan trade.. it’s basically two known quantities for a question mark with higher potential. Obispo is a foreigner, but he signed for about 1500-man yen and I guess he probably doesn’t have an out clause in his contract, like the veterans that come over, so I doubt he could have been easily had as a free agent. Hopefully he does well and winds up with his own little section of the ouen-dan like Konta had.

  6. Patrick
    Billy D
    21/04/2011 at 3:23 pm Permalink

    Patrick, the last time I checked the official, standardized contract, it does not distinguish foreigners and native:

    Though, some agents of foreign “imports” will demand special clause so the foreign player is ready to leave in a year or two. So, unless Obispo retires from NPB, he’s alleged to do whatever the Giants want of him.

    Deanna, that was a good call. The Ouendan are the heart of fans–the hardcore (and the biggest spender) beloved by the club (until they got dismissed for illegal sales…).

    Quick question, aren’t you a Marines fan as well? Just curious.

  7. Patrick
    22/04/2011 at 9:56 am Permalink

    I’ve been a Fighters fan since 2003, and that’s where my primary ouendan groups of friends are. I followed the Marines’ amazing second-half run in 2005 and then became friends with Bobby Valentine, so I spent a lot of time around the club for a few years, and certainly could have been called a fan of sorts, though I’d always be in Fighters seating at Chiba. (I also lived near the Marines ni-gun stadium for a while so I used to ride my bike there a lot, games are free and you can easily chat up players afterwards.) In the CL I used to be a big Chunichi fan and a sometimes Yokohama fan, then got pissed off at Yokohama and got a lot of Yakult friends and started living at Jingu for college and high school and industrial league stuff, so sort of shifted there too to being “a Swallows fan and an anti-Giants fan”, basically. In reality there are players I like on every team, and I know some cheer songs and rituals for pretty much all the teams except the Giants; I think the Hawks and Giants may be the only teams I’ve never sat in ouendan seating for.

  8. Patrick
    Billy D
    24/04/2011 at 2:48 pm Permalink

    Thanks for clarifying. I think there’s a word for your active chase of a wide spectrum in Japan… “Nikushoku-onna?” J/k.