Giants eyeing Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Nishioka is a 26-year-old, switch-hitting middle infielder for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He won the Pacific League batting title this year with a .346 average and scored 121 runs, stole 22 bases and had 206 hits, the most since Ichiro Suzuki in 1994.
The second baseman helped Japan win the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, as well as the Beijing Olympics, where he hit .455.
ESPN reported yesterday that Nishioka wants to play in the majors now. Teams must pay a posting fee, which goes directly to the Japanese team and only covers the negotiating rights to that player. If the winning team doesn’t sign the player within 30 days, the player returns to his original team and no fee is paid.
Posting fees can be pretty random, but to give you an idea, the small-market Oakland A’s just plunked out somewhere between $15MM to $20MM to land the bidding rights for free-agent Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, a 29-year-old who won 44 games the past three seasons in Japan’s Pacific League. When Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted before the 2007 season, the Boston Red Sox paid $51MM just for the right to negotiate with him.
Reportedly, the Chiba Lotte Marines won’t even decide whether to post Nishioka until after Saturday’s championship game.
Nishioka can also play shortstop and the Giants have a need for more depth there with the expiring contracts of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. He has two Gold Gloves on his resume, one in 2005 (as a second baseman) and the other in 2007 (as a shortstop). The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers are also reportedly interested in Nishioka.
According to ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, who managed Nishioka in Japan, if Nishioka had been a college kid four or five years ago, he would have been a first-round pick, adding “He runs faster than a lot of people. He can get a hit. He can steal a base. He can bunt. He is still developing physically and mentally.”
Patrick Newman, who does a great job covering Japanese baseball for NPB Tracker and Fan Graphs, wrote a lengthy scouting report on Nishioka that includes a comparison to Chone Figgins and Ryan Theriot. Newman views Nishioka as more of a second baseman than a shortstop due to his lack of arm strength. And while he’s coming off a career-year, his production was well above his previous track record and he has had a lot of trouble staying healthy.
Nishioka is somewhat of a rock star in Japan. Check out his mad art skills in this video: