Happy New Year. Five days into 2005, and the 12 Japan pro baseball teams have spent the offseason wheeling and dealing, acquiring and firing foreign players. Confused about who left and who is left? Following is a team-by-team rundown of who’s gone and who’s on at this point.
SEIBU LIONS — Dropped infielder Scott McClain but kept first baseman Alex Cabrera, third baseman Jose Fernandez and Taiwanese pitchers Hsu Ming-chie and Chang Chi-chie.
FUKUOKA SOFTBANK HAWKS (How does that grab you?) — Fired outfielder Pedro Valdes and pitchers Brandon Knight, Brad Voyles and Hector Mercado. Retained DH Julio Zuleta, pitcher Lindsay Gulin and farm team hurler Anderson Gomes. Will likely sign one more position player and one pitcher.
CHIBA LOTTE MARINES — Discarded seven-year Japan veteran pitcher Nate Minchey but still have pitcher Dan Serafini, Korean slugger Lee Seung Yeop, infielder Matt Franco and outfielder Benny Agbayani. The Associated Press reported Dec. 9 that the Marines had bought the contract of outfielder Val Pascucci from the former Montreal Expos, but the Chunichi Sports, which listed on Dec. 31 the comings-and-goings of all players, does not reflect that transaction.
HOKKAIDO NIPPON HAM FIGHTERS — Canned outfielder Angel Echevarria and pitcher Ryan Rupe. Held onto first baseman and home run king Fernando Seguignol, outfielder Sherman Obando and pitcher Carlos Mirabal. Added infielder Erick Almonte and pitcher Brandon Knight (from the Hawks).
ORIX BUFFALOES — The merged Kintetsu-Orix club has pink-slipped BlueWave pitchers Trey Moore and Jason Phillips, infielder Jose Ortiz and outfielder Roosevelt Brown. Korean pitcher Koo Dae Sung has gone to try the major leagues, and ex-Kintetsu players sent home are pitcher Hector Carrasco, outfielder Larry Barnes and designated hitter Mario Valdez.
The Orix Buffaloes are holding on to pitchers Jeremy Powell and Kevin Beirne and have contracted former New York Yankees outfielder Karim Garcia and 2004 Korean baseball batting and home run leader Cliff Brumbaugh from the Hyundai Unicorns. Orix also signed Jose Parra, a Yomiuri Giants pitcher in 1999.
TOHOKU RAKUTEN GOLDEN EAGLES — The expansion team had no players to release, and its first foreign pitchers will be pitchers Gary Rath (who threw in 2003 for the Tokyo Giants, sandwiched between two great seasons with Korea’s Doosan Bears) and Aaron Myette. The Eagles will also fly with infielders Damon Minor and Luis Lopez (same name but not the Luis Lopez who used to play for the Hiroshima Carp), and are expected to ink pitcher Kevin Hodges, who led the Central League with 17 wins for the Yakult Swallows in 2002 and pitched for the Samsung Lions in Korea in 2004.
CHUNICHI DRAGONS — The defending Central League champs have sliced pitchers Martin Vargas (going to Samsung in Korea) and Marc Valdes and Cuban first baseman Omar Linares. The Drags have saved center fielder Alex Ochoa and pulled in 2004 co-CL home run champ Tyrone Woods, who broke free from the Yokohama BayStars.
YAKULT SWALLOWS — Chopped outfielder Billy Joe Martin and pitchers Jason Beverlin (an All-Star last year) and Tony Mounce. Staying with the Birds are outfielder Alex Ramirez and pitcher Dicky Gonzalez. Yakult has added to the flock pitcher Alex Ramirez Jr. and outfielder Adam Riggs, late of the Anaheim Angels.
YOMIURI GIANTS — The Kyojin sent packing pitchers Matt Randel, Julio Santana and Bryan Corey, first baseman Roberto Petagine and outfielder Chris Latham. Returning to Tokyo Dome are outfielder Tuffy Rhodes (co-home run leader last season with Woods) and workhorse pitcher Brian Sikorski. The Giants have signed two newcomers: relief pitcher Dan Miceli from the Houston Astros and center fielder Gabe Kapler, a free agent who left the Boston Red Sox.
As a 10-year player, Rhodes will not count as a foreigner, so Yomiuri may still sign another gaikokujin. Petagine may get a contract offer from another Japanese team.
HANSHIN TIGERS — Chucked chuckers Jerrod Riggan, Trey Hodges (brother of Kevin), Ramon Morel and Rodney Myers, and infielders George Arias and Mike Kinkade. Hanshin has held on to Australian relief ace Jeff Williams and hooked up with three newbies: pitchers Jamie Brown and Darwin Cubillan and outfielder Shane Spencer, the former Yankee. The Tigers also got shortstop Andy Sheets from the Hiroshima Carp and may play him at first base. Arias could still be called by another Central or Pacific League club.
HIROSHIMA CARP — Got rid of pitchers Chris Brock, Mark Watson and Tom Davey and lost Sheets to Hanshin. Bringing back infielder Greg LaRocca and pitcher John Bale, and the Carp still have Dominican youngster Juan Feliciano on the mound staff. Acquired pitcher Mike Romano and probably looking for another foreign position player.
YOKOHAMA BAYSTARS — Swept out pitchers Eddie Gaillard, Scott Mullen and Pete Walker and lost first baseman Woods to the Dragons. The ‘Stars have kept pitcher Cedrick Bowers and will bring in pitcher Marc Kroon and first baseman Kevin Witt, the 2004 Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) leader with 36 homers and 107 RBIs at Memphis. (Pacific Coast?)
Finally this week, a request from Rakuten Golden Eagles general manager Marty Kuehnert:
“I’m scrambling to build a new baseball team and can’t find enough hours in the day . . . so I’m looking for an intern to help me in Sendai. Do you know anyone who might like the job? I imagine the right candidate will be a young Japanese male who likes baseball and has spent considerable time in North America, so his English is very good, has a lot of energy, is willing to work long hours for low pay and would move immediately to Sendai,” says Marty.
“A tall order, I know, but hopefully the right guy is out there and waiting for the chance to get into pro baseball.”
Anyone interested may contact Marty by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Eagles office in Sendai at (022) 298-5444 or fax (022) 298-5360.
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