There has not yet been much offseason action as far as roster moves, but here are some of the things going on with different players:
Long-time Tiger Takahiro Arai has left the organization and returned to the Hiroshima Carp, where he began his career. He played 7 years with the Tigers, his best coming in 2010 when he hit 19 HR, 112 RBI and batted .311. Lately he has been used primarily as a pinch hitter, and while it is sad for many fans to see him leave, perhaps this was the best timing for the organization.
With talk of Takashi Toritani heading to the majors (more on that later), the Tigers have been toying with the idea of moving centerfielder Yamato to shortstop and third baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka to center field. Yamato played shortstop for many years before being called up to the Tigers big-league team, and in fact played six different positions in the 2011 season. Nishioka, on the other hand, has played second, short and third in his career, and might see the outfield for the first time ever. He is practicing in center at fall camp.
Also in anticipation of losing Toritani, the Tigers have been in heavy negotiations to sign yet another major league returnee, Hiroyuki Nakajima. He was signed two years ago by the Oakland Athletics, but due to injury and a bad stretch of playing, never made a major league appearance in two seasons. He is now a free agent and looks to come back to Japan. Should the Tigers sign him, he could play either second, shortstop or third.
However, there have actually been reports that there is a better-than-50% chance that Toritani will not go to the majors, and may in fact return to the Tigers next season. I was skeptical of his jump to America this late in his career, and wondered if a major league team would take a chance on him. Yes, he is durable and plays good defense. However, he does not have power or speed, and would undoubtedly be left hitting 8th or 9th on a big-league lineup. It may be hard to make adjustments, and he would perhaps be 35 before being fully comfortable playing in North America. By then, his skills, speed and durability could end up in serious decline mode. Either way, I will cheer for Tori-san, and wish him the best!
Finally, another Tiger has mentioned hopes of moving on to the bigs. Closer Seung-hwan Oh has said he also dreams of playing in America, and hopes to find a job there during the 2015 offseason. Interestingly, he also makes interesting requests to the organization. Last year he asked them to get him a special freezer just for kimchi. This season, he has expressed interest in moving into a kitchen-equipped hotel room. Apparently he’s quite a good cook!
Speaking of pitchers, “ace” Atsushi Nohmi has re-signed with the team for three more years. He has cast off the “ace” label though, insisting it belongs to a younger pitcher (namely Fujinami?). Finally, reliever and major league returnee Yoshinori Tateyama has also retired. He appeared in just eight games for the big-league team before being relegated to the farm team.