Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With Stephen Drew signing in Boston the A’s reacted quickly, going after the next best option in Japaneese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The deal is two years, $6.5 million with a third year option for $5.5 million

This deal seems pretty reasonable for the A’s, whose internal options weren’t great and when you looked at the stats of the other free agent shortstops over the last three seasons it was far from a sure thing that they would be able to get a much better option without parting with quite a bit of talent from the farm system.

 

Name
Age
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
wOBA
wRC+
Fld
WAR
Alex Gonzalez
34
1322
0.247
0.285
0.414
0.304
87
2.4
4.7
Ronny Cedeno
28
1142
0.254
0.301
0.37
0.292
82
0
3.3
Jason Bartlett
31
1248
0.241
0.31
0.317
0.284
80
-11.7
2.5
Cesar Izturis
31
719
0.232
0.27
0.284
0.249
48
8.5
-0.2
Alberto Gonzalez
28
520
0.23
0.262
0.294
0.245
51
10.8
0.1
Munenori Kawasaki
31
115
0.192
0.257
0.202
0.215
35
1.8
-0.3

 

The scouting reports on Nakajima indicated he might not be the best defender at shortstop but should be good enough with the bat to justify the time he spends there. Here is a bit from a scout after the Yankees won his posting auction last year:

The scout projects Nakajima as a .270-.280 hitter who will drive in runs and use his instincts to steal bases, despite being a below-average runner. He lacks arm strength at short, but has great hands, very good range to his left and hangs in on the double play, the scout said.

Patrick Newman of Fangraphs also had a write up on his scouting report before he was posted last season that was a little higher on his fielding ability:

In the Field

Good glove, pretty good arm. I’ve seen some commentary speculating that he’s better suited to second base in MLB, but I don’t see why he shouldn’t get a chance to play shortstop. Nakajima has played his career on turf, in his home games at Seibu Dome and most of his road games, as all of the Pacific League teams have turf infields. The turf-grass adjustment was tough for Kazuo Matsui, but Tadahito Iguchi did fine so it can go either way. Nakajima made 11 errors in 2010, but beyond that NPB fielding metrics are not easy to come by. I’ll have to get back with more if I can collect anything more compelling. My intuition is that he can handle 3rd defensively, though he won’t have a traditional 3b bat in MLB.

At the Plate

Nakajima is a good contact hitter who uses the whole field. I see him as a line drive/gap hitter; in Japan he’s been around 20 hr and .500 slg for the last four years or so. He’s also gotten better at drawing walks over the last few years, but he’s still not great by American standards. Generally speaking, though, there are fewer walks and strikeouts in NPB. Like many Japanese NPB hitters, he has a complex swing, with a long stride and a lot of leg movement. I think he will shorten up his stride and cut down on his lower body movement in MLB, which will likely cost him some power.

Overall it seems like he will be a bat-first shortstop that can play passable defense, who should hopefully be able to hit for a nice average with some gap power. There is the risk that his ability won’t translate from NPB to MLB, but at $6.5 million for two years the financial risk for the A’s if the deal sours is pretty low. In addition, the deal shouldn’t do anything to block A’s prospect Addison Russell.

Considering the alternatives available to the A’s, this is a solid pickup .