Hot Stove Preview, Part Two: 2012 Posting Candidates
As promised in part one, here are my guesses at what will happen with the posting market this offseason. Remember, unlike free agency, posting is not a scheduled event. Players must request to be posted, and their teams must consent for the posting process to actually take place. As such
Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS, Seibu Lions) — Nakaji made multiple requests to be posted last offseason, all of which were denied by Seibu’s management, citing a desire to compete this season. It hasn’t really worked out, as the Lions are currently in last place in the Pacific League (despite my preseason optimism). Like most of NPB, Nakajima’s numbers have been suppressed by the new ball, but he still sports a .279/.339/.431 line. Sadly that .430 slugging percentage is good for sixth in the Pacific League. I don’t really see Nakaji as an MLB shortstop, but if he can come close his current .770 OPS at the MLB level, he’d be a useful second baseman. (Hiroyuki Nakajima tag archive)
Norichika Aoki (OF, Yakult Swallows) — Posting rumors involving Aoki were once common but have really died down over the last few years. There was some reporting that he was going to ask to be posted last offseason, but nothing came of it. It seems pretty clear that Yakult wants to hang on to him, so my take is that it’s highly unlikely that Aoki will be posted this offseason. If he was, his MLB value would be questionable. In this year’s depressed offensive environment, Aoki has largely held on to his on-base skills, but seen his power decline significantly. After regularly slugging around .500 over the last several years, Aoki has just 12 extra base hits (no home runs) in 292 at bats this season, for a .363 rate. (Norichika Aoki tag archive)
Yu Darvish (SP, Nippon Ham Fighters) — I need to be careful what I write about Darvish, because it tends to get repeated, frequently without much context. Darvish is not a free agent until after the 2014 season. There’s also no concrete evidence that Darvish is going to be posted this offseason, and I have my doubts about the journalistic integrity of those who claim otherwise. It is heavily rumored that this is the year, but that’s been the case since before I started this blog in 2008, and here we are. The only on-the-record quote I’ve seen recently from anyone who’s involved are these, from Nippon Ham GM Masao Yamada, last month in Sponichi: “posting is done at the request of the individual, and he hasn’t said anything to us, so we can’t ask ‘what shall we do’ from our side” and “when the time comes, we’ll take the circumstances of the team and the player’s performance into consideration”.
Having said all that, Darvish has done nothing to discourage the rumors with his performance. After a rough opening day start, Darvish has been flat-out dominant this season. I would go as far as to say this is the best work I’ve ever seen from him. Part of that is because of the new, offensive-choking ball, but Darvish has done his part, leading Japan in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts. I don’t have any doubt that he could perform well against better competition. (Yu Darvish tag archive)
My best guess is what of the three players profiled above, only Nakajima is posted. We may see a player I haven’t discussed posted as well; last year I didn’t think Hisashi Iwakuma or Tsuyoshi Nishioka would be posted, and they both were.