As 2012 comes to a close, here’s a recap of the most recent transactions involving Japanese or Japanese American ball players.
Reports indicate Seibu Lions infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima and the Oakland A’s have agreed on a two-year deal worth $6.5 million. Nakajima made seven all-star appearances in 11 seasons with Seibu, hitting .302 with 149 home runs and 664 RBIs along with 134 stolen bases for his career. The 30-year-old looks to be the Athletics’ everyday shortstop.
Veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and the New York Yankees finalized a two-year contract reportedly worth $13 million. Returning to the Bronx is the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer’s best chance at winning a World Series ring.
Durable closer Kyuji Fujikawa is expected to stabilize the Cubs bullpen. The 32-year-old signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal with Chicago on Dec. 1. Former Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome will return to Japan after appearing in just 24 games with the White Sox in 2012, and spending the rest of the year in the Yankees minor league system. The Hanshin Tigers and Yokohama Bay Stars have expressed interest in his services.
Setup man Koji Uehara will call Boston home in 2013. The 37-year-old recently signed a one-year deal worth $4.25 million with the club. He’ll add depth to the staff and help mentor penmate Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa, 26, appeared in 37 games in 2012, striking out 45 batters in 44.0 innings. The Red Sox also signed outfielder Shane Victorino to a three-year contract worth $39 million. The three-time Gold Glove winner will compete for playing time in right field.
Shohei Otani will wait to make his big league debut. The 18-year-old phenom signed with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters amid reports he was close to joining the Los Angeles Dodgers. He still hopes to pitch in majors and will use the Japanese league as a stepping stone.
Texas is one of several teams interested in signing free agent infielder Kensuke Tanaka. The 31-year-old has spent his entire 13-year career with the Ham Fighters. He hit .300 with three homeruns and 32 RBIs in 457 at-bats last season. The Rangers are also looking at bringing back reliever Yoshinori Tateyama. The 36-year-old became a free agent at the end of the season.
Baltimore signed free agent first baseman Travis Ishikawa to a minor league deal. Ishikawa will suit up for the Orioles Triple-A affiliate Norfolk Tides. Orioles pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada is progressing ahead of schedule as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. He looks to be available sometime in 2013. Wada, 31, was slated to be the No. 2 starter prior to his elbow injury in spring training.
Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, grew up rooting for the Oakland A’s but is now a loyal San Francisco Giants fan. He writes from San Francisco.