The Yomiuri Giants haven’t won the Central League pennant since 2014, which might as well be 1914 in Yomiuri Land, and apparently are not going to sit idly by and watch another team take the flag in 2017.
The Giants have been busy this offseason, acquiring players with a zeal not seen since the Great Haul of the 2007 offseason, when the team picked up slugger Alex Ramirez and starter Seth Greisinger, both formerly of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and plucked closer Marc Kroon from the Yokohama BayStars. That was one year after reeling in former Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star Michihiro Ogasawara.
That quartet played a direct role in pennant wins in 2008 and 2009, the latter of which also resulted in a Japan Series title.
This year, the Giants’ big fish is pitcher Shun Yamaguchi, a free agent who last week agreed to leave Yokohama to ply his trade with Yomiuri. Standing 187 cm with a big 97-kg frame, Yamaguchi was 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 138⅔ innings, striking out 121, for Yokohama last season.
The Giants also reached an agreement with lefty reliever Masahiko Morifuku, who pitched in 50 games, recording 16 holds, for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks this past year.
Morifuku wasn’t the first left-hander the Giants added this offseason, having earlier traded for former Pacific League MVP Mitsuo Yoshikawa, formerly of the Fighters.
The team has also landed former Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles slugger Casey McGehee, who had stints with the Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers after leaving Sendai, where he was a Best Nine selection at third base, following the 2013 season.
Yomiuri is also still reportedly trying to woo free agent outfielder Daikan Yoh as well.
The Kyojin are wheeling and dealing with the desperation of a last-place team, not one that won a pennant in 2014 and finished second the next two years.
If the team lands Yoh, it will have easily won the offseason. The youthful Hiroshima Carp ran away with the pennant in 2016, and the Giants are seemingly trying to gain ground one penstroke at a time.
There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but it does come with the caveat that failure will be expensive.
That places the pressure squarely on the back of second-year manager Yoshinobu Takahashi, the man tasked with steering this ship. Between the new additions and incumbents getting healthy, Takahashi will have a lot to choose from, he just has to push the right buttons, and figure out where everyone fits in — where McGehee’s place is will potentially be one of the more intriguing stories of the spring.
As busy as the Giants have been, no one hands out trophies in November and December.
Yamaguchi strengthens an already serviceable rotation, and McGehee could be what the doctor ordered for an offense that has been underwhelming for a few years now.
The Giants have made their move, and just like 2008, they have visions of confetti raining down on them when it’s time for the results of their dealings to be tallied.
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