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Hawks win Hosokawa sweepstakes; Uchikawa next?

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Hawks win Hosokawa sweepstakes; Uchikawa next?

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After weeks of negotiations on all sides, including a last-ditch effort by the Orix Buffaloes, the Hawks have signed Seibu Lions catcher Toru Hosokawa. The terms of the deal are four years, with a base salary of 250 million yen. The contract could rise as high as 800 million if all the incentives are reached. He was also quickly assigned the number 27, a number that once belonged to reserve outfielder Kenta Nakanishi.

As reported on YakyuBaka.com, Hosokawa was quoted as saying, "I feel relieved. [The Hawks have] a good rotation with Sugiuchi and Wada and they have a solid bullpen too. I'd like to do my best and become Nippon Series champs. As for the contract, I'm not really sure if it's alright for me to accept so much."

Feeling that he could become the Hawks' version of Motonobu Tanishige, general manager Sadaharu Oh was deeply involved with these negotiations.

The Yokohama BayStars and Orix Buffaloes were also looking to land Hosokawa, as Yokohama offered a two-year deal at 200 million yen, and Orix put three years and 350 million on the table, although Orix was late to the negotiating table.

Primarily a defensive catcher, Hosokawa has a reputation for leading pitching staffs and also throwing runners out, both of which the Hawks have needed behind the plate. However, his bat is terrible. A career .213 batter, Oh expressed the belief that his batting skills can improve further, but Hosokawa comes across as a much more expensive Katsuki Yamazaki.

I can't really say how I feel about this, aside from my hope that the signing means the Hawks could potentially attract more free agents to Fukuoka.

Speaking of free agents, with Hitoshi Tamura's status still in limbo, it makes one wonder if the Hawks are still serious contenders for the services of Yokohama outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa? Their main competition for his services are both Yokohama and oddly enough the Hiroshima Carp, who don't normally go after free agents.

It seems the Hawks are only interested in Uchikawa if they can't keep Tamura, which is due to his dissatisfaction with the new incentive-based salaries the Hawks front office is attempting to negotiate. Uchikawa is due to meet with the Hawks on the 26th (Friday), and it seems that they are prepping a four-year deal with a 200 million yen per year base salary (100 million in incentives per year).

However, these are encouraging developments on the free agent front. I had been screaming for the Hawks to open the wallets and get active in free agency, and they did. Now time will tell if their acquisitions, both finalized and potential, will pan out. The only thing left on the checklist is a right-handed starter.
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