Jim Albright / the japanese insider
Possible NPB Imports for 2004
The list of those players opting for free agency in Japan this year is out, and it is a rather small group. We don't know who, if anyone, will be posted, but I've rated two guys whose names have been mentioned for possible posting. Should players I have not reviewed be posted, I will review them and update the article. The format will follow that of my article on the 2003 possibles, and I will not review the details of how the numbers were crunched to arrive at these equivalents. I will remind the readers, however that the projections for hitters should be regarded as of much higher predictive value than those for pitchers.
Now a free agent and about to entertain offers from the majors. I see no reason to change my assessment of last year, namely that he is one of the five best shortstops in the world today. His dropoff in steals in 2003 is a small concern, but I suspect it is mostly a function of being moved to 3rd in the batting order. That spot is not ideal for a lot of steal attempts, since even successful steals leave opponents the option of intentionally walking the cleanup hitter,
It's really hard to say what to expect from Iguchi if he goes to the majors as he's never been consistent at any level of accomplishment in the past five years. He was a shortstop before 2001, when he was moved to second. This may have made him more comfortable in the field, and that could have carried over at the plate. 2002 can somewhat be discounted due to the fact he was suffering from a shoulder injury much of the year. This past season represents a huge jump forward in plate discipline and average. I for one am always suspicious when such jumps come in years when the player is playing for a big contract in the off season. However, it presently appears the Hawks will not post him, so we'll probably get another season to try and get a fix on his talents. If things change again and he is posted, I'd say the most reasonable guess as to what he'd do is halfway between the 2001 and 2003 seasons. 2003 certainly shows 2001 was no fluke.
Has been posted again after receiving no interest from MLB when he was posted after the 2002 season. He's no youngster, but might be a good short term gamble for a setup man/backup closer. San Diego is rumored to be interested. The key question will be if the majors will offer enough cash to get the Dragons to give him up.
Japan's all-time saves leader is now a free agent. He says he'd go to the majors if the team met his "conditions", one of which would be to be the closer. If that's the case, I'd suggest he restrict his search to Japan. Frankly, I suspect that the majors are merely an attempt by him to pump up his value in Japan. If I were a MLB GM, I'd pass on a pitcher of his age, salary, and recent performance unless I was truly desperate.
A free agent that if I were a MLB GM I would have absolutely no interest in.