Rumored Red Sox bid for Hiroyuki Nakajima creates questions

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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.

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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.

Gerrit Cole second-fastest to 200 strikeouts in a season

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Astros starter Gerrit Cole dominated the Athletics on Monday night, limiting them to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out 11. It marked his 12th start out of 22 this season with double-digit strikeouts, giving him 205 total on the season.

It is no surprise, then, to hear that Cole is the second-fastest in baseball history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Cole got there in 133 1/3 innings. The only pitcher faster than Cole was Randy Johnson, who reached 200 K’s in 130 2/3 innings back in 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

Along with the 205 strikeouts, Cole holds an 11-5 record with a 3.03 ERA across 136 2/3 innings. Among qualified starters in the American League, only Charlie Morton (2.61), Mike Minor (2.86), José Berríos (2.96), and teammate Justin Verlander (2.99) have a better ERA than Cole, who has twice finished in the top-five in Cy Young Award voting.