It’s Official – “Baby Bull” Rosario is a Tiger!

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The team came in a distant second when it came to officially announcing the signing of Wilin Rosario. The Dominican infielder, who spent two successful seasons in Korea with the Hanhwa Eagles, made the announcement on both his Twitter and Instagram accounts:

Unfortunately, the club had not made their official statement, and the media caught the discrepancy in the timing of the reports. (Notice the timestamp on the tweets above and below.)

For the second time in three offseasons, a Hanshin import made the tweet before the team.

Which makes me wonder… just what do they think these guys are taking the picture for? To savor on their own? Develop in a dark room or at the local photo shop, before faxing a copy of the picture to their old workplace? Is it that hard to figure out that the photo will be taken and immediately shared on social media? Can they not tell the players to hold on to the pictures until further notice, then make the announcement at their leisure, and THEN give the players the green light to post their own shots?

In any case, Rosario is exactly the guy Hanshin has needed for awhile now. Since Mauro Gomez was not able to produce enough in 2016, the team has had no real power threat in the lineup. Some of you may remember Rosario as a hard-hitting catcher in the Colorado Rockies organization earlier this decade. Ultimately his stock as a catcher plummeted and he found himself getting less and less playing time. The move to Korea at the start of the 2016 season enabled him to showcase his talents (70 homers, 231 RBI and a .330 average over two years) in a lesser league, but perhaps was not enough to convince MLB teams to snap him up. The hope (for him) is that his time with Hanshin draws even more attention from the majors. After all, he is still just 28 years old (though his 29th birthday comes during spring training next year).

I am quite excited about his signing, but a few things concern me:

  1. His contract is for a rather exorbitant amount (reportedly $3 million US, putting him third on the team bankroll despite having never set foot on Koshien soil), and may be the cause of fans’ – and media’s – disgruntlement if he does not produce early and often;
  2. If he does not produce early and often, the most impatient skipper (with import hitters, anyways) in the land, Tomoaki Kanemoto, may send him to the bench or the farm before he truly adjusts to NPB baseball;
  3. The dearth of home run power from imports on this squad (Craig Brazell is the last true slugger we had, but his one good year in 2010 was also one in which the ball was allegedly juiced) has caused people to have extremely high expectations for Rosario. Anything short of 30 home runs will be a disappointment. Yes, Rosario has hit 28 homers in an MLB campaign (albeit, in the rarified Colorado air), and 37 this past season in KBO (which is notorious for being hitter-friendly)… but can he match the feat at Koshien? I suppose the good news is that he bats righty, which means he won’t be combatting the merciless ocean breezes that kill many a “home run” to right.

I am quite excited about his signing, and here’s why:

  1. He has shown growth as a player during his career, improving his BB:K ratio – especially during his time in Korea. If he has learned to lay off some pitches, that’s a good thing.
  2. He is an English-speaking Dominican, which means if H-TEN ever gets the chance to meet him, we will be able to have conversations (maybe interviews, too!).
  3. The team has not had a right-handed 30-home run guy George Arias in 2003. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Rosario has the chance of breaking that ridiculously long streak.
  4. And speaking of streaks, wouldn’t it be nice if a new import legend was born, and the team won the Nippon Series for the first time since 1985, too? Yeah, this is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of.

But I’ll curb my enthusiasm for now.

For the record, he will wear #20 next season (taking the number from the departed Roman Mendez), while newly signed Dominican reliever Diego Moreno will wear #48 next year (previously worn by Jason Rogers).

By the way, this is what Rosario said via the club: “I’m so proud to be able to call myself a member of the Hanshin Tigers, to play alongside the manager, coaches and staff. I got to talk to some Japanese coaches while I was in Korea and got interested in baseball in Japan. I’m really excited to be able to play in Japan next season. I had a couple of good seasons in Korea, and now I’m ready for the new challenge of playing in Japan. My time in KBO has given me confidence that I can succeed in Japan, too.”

Welcome to the pinstripes, Wilin Rosario. (Hey, did anyone else notice that the uniform they had him wear when he signed the contract is the 2017 model? He’ll never wear that one ever again!) Wishing you all the success in the world – but maybe not too much… we want you to stay here and anchor our lineup for years to come!

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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.