Thearon W. Henderson
When Stephen Drew signed with the Red Sox, the A's turned their gaze westward for a shortstop. Tuesday, they got their man: 30-year-old Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima.
From the Athletics' press release:
Nakajima, 30, is an eight-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner with a .302 career batting average in 11 seasons with the Seibu Lions. The 5-11, 198-pound Japanese star batted .311 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 74 RBI in 136 games for the Lions last season, earning All-Star, Gold Glove and "Best Nine" recognition.
He has hit 20 or more home runs in four different seasons and has driven in 90 or more runs on four separate occasions. He has also hit .300 or higher six times and stolen 20 or more bases three times in his career. Since joining Seibu in 2002, the Itami, Hyogo native has collected 248 doubles, 20 triples, 162 home runs, 738 RBI and 141 stolen bases, and posted .371 on-base and .472 slugging percentages.
Gosh, all that sounds really impressive. Of course, Tsuyoshi Nishioka did some really impressive things in Japan, too. And that didn't work out well for the Twins at all. Granted, Nakajima's got a longer track record than Nishioka -- the former is 30, the latter only 26 when he debuted in our MLB -- but that cuts both ways, as Nakajima probably peaked a few years ago.
According to Susan Slusser, Nakajima signed for two years and just $6.5 million, with a 2015 team option for $5.5 million, and "numerous incentives and escalators in the contract."
Without knowing more about those incentives and escalators, we can't know how much cheaper Nakajima is than Drew, but we can guess he's significantly cheaper.
It's been widely reported that Nakajima drew the most interest from the A's and the Diamondbacks, but now the D-backs have recently acquired Didi Gregorius, who they're hoping will take over at shortstop. If that doesn't work, they've also got Cliff Pennington and Willie Bloomquist on the roster.