Darvish, former big leaguer Ramirez win MVP honors in Japan

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darvish.jpg23-year-old Nippon Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish and Venezuelan outfielder Alex Ramirez took home the Japanese league MVP awards on Wednesday.
Darvish, who probably qualifies as one of the world’s top 10 pitchers, earned the Pacific League honor despite making just 23 starts this season. He went 15-5 with a 1.73 ERA and a 167/45 K/BB ratio in 182 innings. As spectacular as he was, his performance can’t be regarded as much more valuable than that Hideaki Wakui, who went 16-6 with a 2.30 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 211 2/3 innings for Seibu.
Also making a case for the award was Seibu third baseman Takeya Nakamura, who hit 48 homers to lead the league by nine. He hit .285/.359/.651 overall. Outfielder Teppei Tsuchiya was the league’s leading hitter, coming in at .327/.391/.504 with 13 steals.
Ramirez won a second straight Central League MVP despite finishing with slightly weaker numbers than teammate Michihiro Ogasawara. Ramirez came in at .322/.347/.544 with 31 homers and 103 RBI, while Osagawara hit .309/.384/.543 with 31 homers and 107 RBI.
Ramirez played in the majors for the Indians and Pirates in from 1998-2000, hitting .259/.293/.437 with 12 homers in 332 at-bats. The outfielder is up to 287 homers in nine seasons in Japan.
The Central League’s top pitcher was 24-year-old Wei-Ying Chen. In his first full year in the rotation, he went 8-4 with a 1.54 ERA and four shutouts in 24 starts. Former major leaguer Dicky Gonzalez finished third in the league with a 2.11 ERA.

Giants nearing deal with Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
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The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.

Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.

The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.

In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.