OSAKA – The Hanshin Tigers have not ruled out the idea of signing World Series-winning reliever Hideki Okajima, a team official said Friday.
While Hanshin executive Shoji Numazawa maintained that the Tigers “will not get involved in a bidding war with major league teams,” he did say Okajima, who turns 35 on Christmas Day, has caught the attention of the Central League club.
Okajima’s agent said that the Boston Red Sox, who the lefty won the 2007 World Series with, decided not to extend his deal before Thursday’s deadline for tendering players.
Teams had until midnight Thursday to tender contracts for unsigned players under their control.
“He is a pitcher, so we do have some interest,” Numazawa said of Okajima, who went 4-4 with a career-worst 4.50 ERA in 56 appearances this season. “But we’re not gung-ho about it. We’re not going to sign him at all costs.”
The Tigers currently have 68 players on their roster after signing five rookies. They have room for two more players.
“That’s the sticking point,” Numazawa said. “We only have two spots left, and we’ve got to use them carefully.”
Okajima, who is from Kyoto, said he was willing to listen to both major league and Japanese clubs.
“I don’t have a preference as to whether the team is in the United States or Japan. I’m willing to listen to any teams that are interested in me,” he told Kyodo News.
The former Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters hurler went on the disabled list for the first time in the majors this year with a left-hamstring injury.
Okajima has a 16-8 record with a 3.06 ERA and 6 saves in four seasons with the Red Sox.