November 2017 – The Month Virtually Nothing Happened

The annual pro baseball draft took place on October 26. Then the Nippon Series finished up on November 1. Since then, there has been very little going on in the world of baseball, particularly with the Hanshin Tigers. The team has declared it would minimize its offseason acquisitions and keep working on developing the talent they currently have.

That means no slugging first baseman Sho Nakata. (He returned to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.)

No right-handed starting pitcher Ryoma Nogami. (He took his talents to the Yomiuri Giants.)

No right-handed relief ace Hirotoshi Masui. (He will join the crosstown Orix Buffaloes.)

And how about our “prized” free agent? Well, reports today indicate that utility infielder/outfielder/switch hitter Yamato has agreed to a deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. This was not completely unexpected, as he was looking for playing time more than he was money. The ‘Stars have apparently offered him the starting shortstop position. So Kuramoto, you’re out of a job! What remains to be seen is whether Hanshin takes full cash compensation from the BayStars, or if they take less cash and pull an unprotected player off their roster.

In the meantime, the club has signed a different utility infielder: Noriharu Yamazaki, who was kicked off the BayStars’ roster this offseason. The 30-year old righty has mostly the same makeup as Yamato, but with a little less flash everywhere. Consider him another Yuto Morikoshi. Yawn.

H-TEN the Facebook page announced this, but the website did not: Kentaro Kuwahara and Marcos Mateo won mid-relievers of the year in the Central League. The two righties racked up the most hold points in 2017 and get some hardware to prove it to their grandchildren someday. Other individual awards for Hanshin, you ask? Well, other than Rafael Dolis getting the saves title, there isn’t a whole lot to report. Takashi Toritani won his first Golden Glove at third base (honestly, it’s more due to no other team having a full-time third baseman, other than the BayStars’ Miyazaki). Naomasa Yohkawa won the home run and RBI crowns in the Western League for the second straight season. (Buddy, it can’t end there. You gotta start producing at the top level!)

The biggest “positive” (depending on how you view Yamato’s departure) news of November is probably the team’s acquisition of Taiwan’s prized young left-handed pitcher, 21-year old Yen-Ching Lu. He will likely spend 2018 developing on the farm and adjusting to life in Japan. In 2019, if Randy Messenger remains with the Tigers, he will no longer count against the import limitation, which would leave room for Lu to join the top squad while we keep the other three pitchers in the mix.

Though hardly big news, many of the guys have gone to team headquarters for their annual evaluations. Their salary increases (or in some cases, decreases) were reported in the news, but H-TEN will not go into such details here. When the 2018 Complete Roster is published, you will see everyone’s salaries all at once… and we might even put up a chart to track players’ salaries back a few years, too!

Speaking of contracts, two of our guys have been degraded downgraded to development player status for 2018. Shintaro Yokota, who is still recovering from brain tumors, will wear triple digits for the time being until he’s ready to challenge for a spot on the top squad. Also, reliever Hiroaki Saiuchi, who spent all of 2017 on the farm (and much of that injured) will try to get back to double digits as quickly as possible, too.

In the meantime, we are pleased to tell you that all the player profiles have been updated to include stat lines for 2017, and also, profile pictures have been “updated” too. The previous ones were plucked from the team homepage, but since that’s kind of not really legal, we took them down and replaced them with trading cards that we own. (Not all players have profile pics now, but that’s OK. You want a profile pic, guys? Get out there and EARN it!)

Here’s to hoping December is a bit of a busier month so we Hanshin fans have something more to talk about! I’m still holding out hope that we will be announcing the signing of Wilin Rosario soon! His contract in the KBO officially expires today, so NPB (and sadly, MLB) teams can negotiate with him from December 1 onward. Go get ‘im, Tigers!

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.

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