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.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.