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Yomiuri Giants owner Tsuneo Watanabe said Friday he has cooled on a bid for Norihiro Nakamura, raising the possibility the free agent slugger will join rival Central League team Hanshin Tigers.

Japan Series champions had courted the 29-year-old but appear to have backed away after agreeing to a two-year deal with Venezuelan slugger Roberto Petagine on Wednesday to fill the void left by Hideki Matsui, who is hoping to go to a major league club.

“I don’t care too much if Nakamura joins Hanshin. Petagine is coming to play for us so there’s no need for me to get down on my knees and beg him to come here,” said Watanabe at a Tokyo hotel.

“It wouldn’t be good if Hanshin doesn’t get better.”

Hanshin club president Katsuyoshi Nozaki and manager Senichi Hoshino met with Nakamura on Thursday and tabled a reported six-year deal worth more than 3 billion yen, with the Kintetsu Buffaloes also offering a similar deal to keep him at the club for a 12th season.

The 29-year-old infielder is hoping to receive an offer from a major league team.

A winner of two RBI crowns and one home run title in the Pacific League, Nakamura signed a one-year, 500 million yen deal with Kintetsu a year ago which made him the second highest-paid player in Japan behind Hideki Matsui.

Taneda, Saeki stay put

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Takahiro Saeki and Hitoshi Taneda, who both opted against becoming free agents after the season, re-signed with the Yokohama BayStars on Friday on the opening day of salary negotiations for the Central League club.

Saeki, who was limited by injury to 62 game appearances this past season, agreed to a 100 million yen annual salary, down 10 million from last year, while Taneda’s pay was boosted to 66 million yen.

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