Well, by one measure anyway.
After failing his physical with the Yankees, Hideki Okajima returned to Japan over the weekend, signing with the Softbank Hawks. He’ll bring with him the 17th best ERA+ among all major league relievers to throw at least 200 innings:
1. Mariano Rivera – 206
2. Takashi Saito – 199
3. Jonathan Papelbon – 197
4. Billy Wagner – 187
5. Mike Adams – 187
6. Joakim Soria – 181
7. Brad Ziegler – 173
8. Francisco Rodriguez – 172
9. Akinori Otsuka – 171
10. Bryan Harvey – 162
11. Peter Moylan – 161
12. Tom Henke – 157
13. Jeff Zimmerman – 152
14. Joe Nathan – 152
15. Alfredo Aceves – 151
16. Rafael Soriano – 149
17. Hideki Okajima – 149
18. Crad Cordero – 149
19. John Wetteland – 149
20. Joel Zumaya – 148
Obviously, that’s a silly list — many relievers not included have had better five-year runs than some of these short-career guys — but it does sort of demonstrate the quality of Okajima’s innings. My favorite Okajima factoid: he gave up a homer to the very first batter he faced (John Buck) in his major league debut and then went 21 2/3 innings without giving up another run
Okajima ended up 17-8 with a 3.11 ERA over 246 1/3 innings in five seasons with the Red Sox. He also had a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings postseason innings. And he did it all for about $7.5 million, which is less than Soriano will make with the Yankees this year alone.
The Yankees were on the hunt for another lefty relief candidate after Hideki Okajima failed his physical and apparently have found one in veteran Clay Rapada, says MLB.com.
Rapada, who turns 31 next month, is expected to get a minor league contract. The sidearmer had a 6.06 ERA in 16 1/3 innings for the Orioles last season, but he did hold lefties to a .104 average in 49 at-bats. The problem is that right-handers were 9-for-13 with two homers against him.
It’s the usual trend for Rapada and why he’s never been able to establish himself in the majors. In 78 lifetime appearances, lefties have hit .153 against him, while righties have come in at .359.
Barring a late trade or a surprising spring from Rapada or Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabral, there’s a good chance the Yankees will go with just one lefty reliever, that being Boone Logan.
UPDATE: No word yet on the cause of the failed physical, but the Yankees have released Okajima.
Hideki Okajima, who signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees in December, has failed his physical exam according to David Waldstein of the New York Times.
Waldstein speculates that the Yankees will void his contract and make the 36-year-old reliever a free agent again, although it’s also possible that they could simply alter the terms of the contract and keep him around in the minors.
Okajima pitched his way out of the Red Sox’s plans after three seasons as a top-notch setup man, but was excellent at Triple-A last year with a 2.29 ERA and 49/8 K/BB ratio in 51 innings.
Last week Hideki Okajima was said to be close to re-signing with the Red Sox and now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the two sides have finalized a one-year contract worth $1.75 million in guaranteed money and another $550,000 in potential incentives.
Boston non-tendered Okajima last month rather than pay what likely would have been around $3.5 million via the arbitration process, so in re-signing him the Red Sox probably end up saving at least $1.5 million.
Okajima had a miserable first half that included talk of being homesick and criticism from local reporters who felt he was dodging media responsibilities, but he allowed just two runs in his final 16 appearances to finish with a reasonable 4.50 ERA in 46 innings overall and will fill a left-handed setup role again in 2011.