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A’s Ink Hiroyuki Nakajima

December 17, 2012

The A’s have agreed to a two-year $6.5M contract with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima a day after their latest shortstop, Stephen Drew signed with the Boston Red Sox. The deal includes and option for 2015 worth $5.5M and apparently has various performance incentives along with escalators. The 30-year old, hit .311/.382/.451 with 13 home runs in 567 plate appearances last year with the Seibu Lions of the NPB’s Pacific League.

Not much has changed since I first wrote about the A’s being a team of interest with Nakajima back in early November. Then, I wrote,

“These sorts of signings can be so hard to gauge; aside from Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui the list of strong Japanese hitters quickly peters out to the likes of Kaz Matsui. That said, if the A’s could get a level of production comparable to what Norichika Aoki gave the Brewers this year what a great signing it could be under the radar. Aoki was a better hitter in NPB with the Yakult Swallows but not significantly so, so I think there is room for comparison. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports reports that the A’s are at least “midly interested”, but this seems like it could be a worthwhile way for the A’s at the very least to give themselves some flexibility, lest we forget the A’s present starting shortstop is none other than (shudder) Adam Rosales, and the trade market looks quite bleak and Stephen Drew seems the best available on the near empty free-agent market.”

I stand by that, with one exception, I wouldn’t have minded seeing what the A’s could do with maybe trying to acquire Jed Lowrie of the Astros as an MLB proven option to me still trumps a foreign shot in the dark. The two-year deal also sort of means the A’s are really going with him as opposed to a stopgap or test sort of measure where they might be willing to send him to Sacramento or platoon. Nakajima likely is the A’s starting shortstop until Addison Russell is ready to take over. Lowrie, who really has not played that much MLB ball meanwhile posted 2.5 WAR last season putting up a .244/.331/.438 slash line with the Astros in 387 plate appearances with some pop in the form of 16 home runs. Lowrie, would not have come cheap but to me he’d have been a more valuable acquisition as I think the A’s third base situation too is far from solid and there have been questions over Nakajima’s defense at short.

The A’s 40-man roster is full and that means someone has to go. The obvious choice is Jesse Chavez, a right-hander who pitched to a grand total of 21 batters and did so well as to earn a 18.90 ERA and a 6.99 FIP in the process. That said, I still think the A’s don’t go with this obvious choice since they could’ve cut him loose when they let go the far more productive Jim Miller to make room for potential Rule V candidates. I actually think Oakland might designate Michael Taylor for assignment. The once lauded prospect has failed to deliver for the A’s, is 27 years old on Wednesday, and has an MLB career slash line of .176/.250/.255 in 56 plate appearances. While he had a strong year in Sacramento this past year (.287/.405/.441, with a .382 wOBA and 125 wRC+), it represented his third straight year at the Pacific Coast League and with the A’s outfield decidedly jammed he seems unlikely as a candidate to break through. We shall see.

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