Two Japanese players eyeing MLB
TOKYO -- Two members of the Japan Series-winning Chiba Lotte Marines say they want to play in the major leagues next season.
Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka said on Wednesday he intends to move to Major League Baseball via the posting system, while closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi will try to sign as a free agent.
A source told ESPN The Magazine's Tim Kurkjian that Nishioka will be posted this week.
Nishioka won the Pacific League batting title this year with a .346 average. He scored 121 runs, stole 22 bases and had 206 hits. Nishioka, a switch-hitter, batted leadoff for the Marines.
"He is a good player, he is a talented kid," said ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, who managed Nishioka in Japan. "If he had been a college kid four or five years ago, he would have been a first-round pick. He runs faster than a lot of people. He can get a hit. He can steal a base. He can bunt. He is still developing physically and mentally. And this year, he stayed healthy all year. He has style issues, positive and negative: he likes to be noticed. How he develops will depend on what team signs him."
The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source, reported that the Los Angeles Dodgers are Nishioka's preferred landing spot. However, the newspaper reported that it was unknown if the team had the financial resources to win the bid for Nishioka and then sign him to a contract.
The bidding on a posted player is a blind auction. Teams must pay a posting fee, which goes directly to the Japanese team and only covers the negotiating rights to that player. If the winning team doesn't sign the player within 30 days, the player returns to his original team and no fee is paid. When Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted before the 2007 season, the Red Sox paid $51 million just for the right to negotiate with him.
Nishioka might be an attractive free agent for major league teams in a year with a weaker-than-normal free-agent class, especially for middle infielders.
Derek Jeter, Juan Uribe, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria and Cesar Izturis are the top free-agent shortstops. Orlando Hudson, Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto, Felipe Lopez, David Eckstein and Cristian Guzman are also eligible for free agency.
Nishioka can play either shortstop or second base. He played second in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, as well as the Beijing Olympics when he hit .455.
Kobayashi, 32, had a 2.21 ERA with 29 saves.
Information from ESPN The Magazine's Tim Kurkjian and The Associated Press was used in this report.