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 Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.