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Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year

Discussion in the Rumor Mill forum
Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
There's been a lot of talk and speculation about Japanese stars such as Hideki Matsui taking their game to the majors next year; does anybody care to take a stab at the probabilites of the most commonly mentioned players actually making the move? Is an 80% chance about right for Godzilla, or is Cromartie right?

Any thoughts appreciated - thanks!
Comments
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: Guest | Posted: Aug 11, 2002 9:21 PM ]

It's hard to say if H. Matsui as well as K. Matsui will go to the U.S. next year. There's talk about Nakamura also possibly leaving for the Majors, but in my opinion, a lot of players in Japan who were tempted to go to the U.S. with the success of Shinjo in 2001 have been dissuaded by the lackluster showing of So Taguchi who was supposed to be the second coming of Shinjo but only had a cup of coffee with the Cardinals before being sent back down to AAA.

I don't think anyone here has mentioned it, but Taguchi has been demoted yet again and is now toiling in AA. Look for him to opt out of his contract with the Cardinals and return to Japan next year. It's obvious that the Cardinals have given up on him and unless he wants to play in the independent leagues next season he'll have to come back to Japan again.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Aug 12, 2002 11:37 AM ]

I dunno. Taguchi was never quite even the offensive equal of Shinjo. Shinjo never hit for average, but he generally had some pop in his bat. Taguchi never had that. Kazuo Matsui has been perhaps the most vocal of going over, and he decided not to be posted long before Taguchi even went to spring training.

IMO, Nakamura's mentioning of going to the Majors was just something to juice his contract talks, give himself a little more leverage.

I would imagine that one or two Japanese players will cross over this year, one possibly being Matsui. History has indicated that every year following Nomo's rookie of the year season, at least one Japanese player has gone over every off season. Hasegawa, Kashiwada and Irabu in 1996, Yoshii in 1997, Ohka in 1998, Sasaki in 1999, Ichiro in 2000, and Ishii, Komiyama and Taguchi in 2001. History would indicate that no matter how badly one player does, at least one player crosses over.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Aug 11, 2002 10:23 PM ]

The odds are basically incalculable by anyone except the players themselves. Only they know what they want to do. Although the western media has all but signed Matsui to a Major League contract, I don't think we'll know until Matsui makes his decision. It may depend entirely on the offer the Giants make him.

The only star player left who has mentioned possibly crossing over is Kintetsu third bagger Norihiro Nakamura. But he's in a good position right now; his team is playing well, he's one of the highest paid players in Japan, and I haven't heard him talk much about the Majors since the 2000-2001 off-season when it was a big topic with Ichiro going over. You have to understand that Hideki Matsui has never said, "I want to play in the Majors," like Ichiro and Ishii did. It was basicallly assumed he wanted to go to the Majors because he turned down a number of fairly lucrative long-term deals with the Giants. When asked about it, he has always said that he will make the decision when he becomes a free agent and not before.

Personally, I think he will stay in Japan. My view appears to be the minority one, and I imagine my reasons are probably not widely shared. You see, Matsui is one of the heads of the Japanese players' union. As the equivalent of the Giants' player representative, he holds a vice-chairman position in the Japanese Professional Baseball Player's Association. The Japanese players' union is currently becoming more active, pushing for reforms and a stronger voice in the decision making process. In his last salary negotiations with the Giants, Matsui broke the 6-oku yen barrier (600,000,000 yen, or roughly 6 million dollars). Every time he sets the bar higher, salaries for other players rise. It's been assumed that he turned down a long term contract with the Giants to leave the option of going to MLB open, but I'm inclined to believe that he did it because a long term contract would have frozen the salary of Japan's top player at around 5 to 5.5 million dollars a year. With a single year contract, he can keep raising the bar.

Matsui's jersey number is 55. It's very significant because one of his stated goals is to tie and/or surpass Oh's single season record of 55 home runs. He hasn't done it yet, in fact, he hasn't cracked the 50 home run barrier yet. In Japan, Matsui is the premier Japanese slugger, but the fact is that every year he has to fight Roberto Petagine and/or Leo Gomez for the CL home run title. In the U.S. he would certainly be a top-level power threat, but with the glut of sluggers in MLB, he would no longer be considered the best. These are all things that suggest to me that he won't go; he'll have it better in Japan.

On the other hand, he's won two Japan Series championships and something like four pennants (someone correct me if I'm wrong, please). He's won two MVP awards, and has been on the CL Best Nine just about his entire career. Particularly if he wins the Triple Crown this year (not at all impossible), he may feel he's done as much as he can in Japanese baseball, and decide to see how he'd do in MLB. I don't know how significant it is, but all the players who've crossed over are married, but Matsui is still single. And if he has a girlfriend, I must tip my cap to him for keeping it under wraps from the press, since it would be pretty big news in Japan.

As for Kazuo Matsui, I think he might actually be posted at the end of the season. Nothing has been said yet, but Kazuo Matsui said that he wanted to go once he had elevated his game to a certain point, basically .300 BA/30 HR/100 RBI. At this point in the season, with about 50 games to go, he's on pace to hit .309, 33 HR and 79 RBI. Pretty good numbers from the lead-off spot, and RBI are dependent upon your chances as much as anything else, so I think Kazuo Matsui may be satisfied if he puts up these kinds of numbers.

That's the way I see it, anyway. Only the players know for sure.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: Guest: Tak Park | Posted: Aug 12, 2002 10:18 AM ]

Many thanks. Apart from the Matsuis and Nakamura, what about players such as Matsuzaka or Matsunaka? I've heard both mentioned in rumors to this effect. Slim to none?

Thank you again. Naturally, any additional information and views will also be appreciated.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Aug 12, 2002 11:23 AM ]

Matsuzaka has said from the very beginning that he wants to go to the Majors someday. But, he won't be a free agent until 2008, at which point he'll be 28, and he probably wouldn't be posted until 2007. He's already had arm problems this year, and was horribly misused his first three seasons. Expect him to have a Nomo like career; a good couple of seasons, then merely workmanlike numbers as he loses some velocity on his fastball.

I have never heard Matsunaka mention anything about going to the Majors. Baseball America once mentioned him in an article about "the next Ichiro" but they were simply analyzing various Japanese stars, not players who have announced intention to go over. In any case, he won't be a free agent until 2007 or 2008. If he did cross over, he'd be a top rank first baseman with good defense, and who hits for average and power.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: Guest: Gary Garland | Posted: Aug 12, 2002 6:49 PM ]

Pretty unlikely you'll see Matsunaka in MLB. Aside from the fact he's injury prone, he came out of the industrial league and will be a little long in the tooth by the time Daiei will let him go. The guy can hit in any league, though. It is likely you'll see Hiroki Kokubo in MLB in two years. If anyone from that team is going to go after Kokubo, Hayato Terahara maybe in about five years in a best case scenario (that being that he doesn't become one in a long line of failed Japanese phenoms), though if Daiei insists on holding on to him, he'll still only be 29 when he is a free agent, so he'll still be attractive to MLB teams.

I agree with the assessment of Matsuzaka. That elbow injury is a big red flag. But I think he's gone after next season and will end up in Seattle, L.A., or
with one of the two New York teams. Also, Seibu can wave byebye to Chang Chih-chia around then as well. This guy could be the first superstar Chinese pitcher in MLB. The Dodgers made him an offer, from what I can understand, but I think he kind of wanted to work his way up before jumping to MLB.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Aug 14, 2002 9:19 AM ]

I've never thought Matsunaka was a candidate to go to the Majors, although I certainly think he could be a star player there.

I was just reading an article on Nikkan Sports' webpage where they list Kazuo Matsui's standard for going to the Majors as .300 BA with 30 jacks and 30 bags, rather than 30 jacks and 100 ribbies, as I originally thought. If that's the case, I think he's probably going to clear it. And being a 30-30 man in a 140-game season seems mighty impressive to me, particularly from the shortstop position. Seibu could score oodles of money if they post him this off season.
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: Guest: Tak Park | Posted: Aug 14, 2002 4:35 PM ]

That's certainly news. When exactly did Matsui say this? You're of course right - 30-30 is an extremely impressive feat.

Thanks again for all the excellent input!
Re: Odds of players crossing the Pacific next year
[ Author: CFiJ | Posted: Aug 15, 2002 2:22 AM ]

> That's certainly news. When exactly did Matsui say
> this? You're of course right - 30-30 is an extremely
> impressive feat.
>
> Thanks again for all the excellent input!

All signs indicated that Seibu would be willing to post Matsui at the end of last season. He expressed his wish to go to the Majors to the organization during contract negotiations in the 2000-2001 off-season. The owner of the Lions indicated during the season that he would be willing to honor Matsui's dream and post him at the end of the season. But Matsui did not have a good 2001 campaign, at least by his standards, I guess. He hit .308, his lowest average in five years, with 24 homers and 26 stolen bases. The homers were a career high, one more than his previous year. I'm not sure, but I think he was batting lower in the order that year, and didn't drive in many guys. Perhaps he was a little spooked by September 11th and/or the threat of a strike; he does have a wife and a baby.

At any rate, he said that he didn't want to go to the Majors until he had reached a certain standard of performance. When asked what standard this was, he mentioned the "three 3's": .300 BA/30 HR/30 SB.

At the moment, he is on pace to finish the season with a .310 BA, 34 HR and 34 SB. His OPS is 945, which is good, it's very good. But it'd be nice to see him push his on-base percentage into the .400's.
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