For a team that couldn’t do anything right during the season, things sure seem to be going well for the Yokohama BayStars this offseason.
Yokohama had a horrible 2008 season, finishing 19 games behind fifth-place finisher Tokyo Yakult with a dismal 48-94 mark.
The BayStars have finished last in the Central League in two of the last three seasons and didn’t seem to have much hope for next season either.
However, Yokohama has had a somewhat busy offseason and on paper at least there may be reason to believe things will get better this season.
The first positive sign move came in late November when pitcher Daisuke Miura turned down a lucrative offer from the Hanshin Tigers to remain with the team.
Miura struggled with injuries at times last season but is still a quality pitcher. If he stays healthy, he has the ability to will the BayStars to a few wins.
Early December brought the announcement the team would be bringing aboard former Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Dan Johnson.
Johnson batted .307 with 25 home runs, 83 RBIs and drew 84 walks in 113 games for the Durham Bulls, the Rays’ Triple- A affiliate, last season.
Johnson has a .299 average in eight minor league seasons and batted .248 in 328 MLB games over four seasons.
But he didn’t get many opportunities in the big leagues in 2008, getting only 25 at-bats with the Rays.
He had his moment in the sun on Sept. 10, hitting a game-tying pinch-hit homer off Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (in his first at-bat of the year) in the ninth inning of a game the Rays would win 5-4. A loss and Tampa would have fallen behind the BoSox in the race for the AL East crown it would eventually win.
As a first baseman his addition seems to facilitate a move back to the outfield for CL batting champ Seiichi Uchikawa.
Yokohama then rang in the new year by signing former Hokkaido Nippon Ham and Tohoku Rakuten Eagles pitcher Ryan Glynn and re-signing home run king Shuichi Murata.
Glynn’s numbers were down from previous years, he went 7-14 with a 3.63 ERA, but finished the regular season strong, however, going 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA in his final seven starts.
Glynn should give the BayStars another big-time arm to follow Miura in the rotation and take some of the pressure off talented youngster Futoshi Kobayashi.
If Kobayashi keeps developing and Miura and Glynn can bounce back, Yokohama has reason to hope for better than last season’s Japanese baseball-worst 4.74 team ERA.
The team also added former former Toronto Blue Jay Les Walrond and Cleveland Indians pitcher Tom “Mr. Nasty” Mastny (as he was known during his collegiate days at Furman University) this winter.
Walrond has a 1-4 major league record and is 71-63 in 11 minor league seasons.
Mastny, who turns 28 on Feb. 4, has an MLB career record of 9-5 with a 6.13 ERA (one start) in three seasons and was 28-9 with a 2.16 mark in five minor league seasons.
At the plate Murata’s ¥100 million pay raise should keep the 26-year-old third baseman happy while he tries to slug the BayStars into contention.
Yokohama had a horrible season last year and signings and raises alone won’t change anything. The BayStars need results on the field and only time will tell how good their winter has been.
But when you finish 36 1/2 games out of first place and 24 1/2 from a playoff spot, there’s nothing wrong with having a little hope to keep warm over the long winter.