5:55 p.m. EDT update: It may be moot: the Red Sox are saying they did not bid for Nakajima. The winning bidder in the posting process is expected to be announced Wednesday.
The Red Sox already have a pair of possible starting shortstops in Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie, as well as a much-hyped shortstop of the future in Jose Iglesias, so what are they doing bidding on Hiroyuki Nakajima?
The obvious answer, assuming that Sponichi is right about the Red Sox likely having the high bid for Nakajima, is that they think he’s an immediate upgrade over Scutaro and Lowrie. Lowrie’s name has been coming up in trade rumors, in particular with the Rangers. Oakland would also make sense as a destination for Lowrie if there are any legs to the Andrew Bailey rumors.
But is Nakajima really better than the competition? The 29-year-old hit .297 with 16 homers, 100 RBI and a 93/44 K/BB ratio in 566 at-bats for Seibu last season. It’s the first time since 2005 that he’s hit under .300, but considering that they went to a new baseball in Japan last year and offense plummeted across the board, it was one of his most impressive seasons overall.
Nakajima’s track record is certainly more impressive that Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s. Nishioka had the one big season for Lotte in 2010, but it stood out as a career year for him. Then again, Nishioka was just 26 when he signed with the Twins. Nakajima is 29.
The Red Sox have certainly scouted Nakajima if they’re bidding on him, and Bobby Valentine is familiar with him, having managed against Nakajima’s Lions from 2005-09. The Red Sox may see Nakajima as a potential bargain in light of Nishioka’s flameout likely hurting the market for Japanese infielders. His arrival would guarantee that either Scutaro or Lowrie departs prior to Opening Day. If it’s Scutaro and his $6 million salary, then the Red Sox might have a chance to both upgrade at shortstop and reduce payroll at the same time.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.
Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.
Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.
Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.
The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”
Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.
Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.
On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.