Regrets ... I've Had a Few

Everyone remembers the parable about the fox and the sour grapes, right? It's about a fox who sees a pile of moldy grapes in a dumpster behind a Cheescake Factory. He passes them up, goes several months without eating, and eventually goes insane thinking about how he regrets not eating the delicious moldy grapes, not even caring that the grapes might have made him sick because they were a) moldy grapes, and b) within three feet of Cheesecake Factory food.

Yeah, that parable always comes in handy. And it comes up now because the Yankees failed to reach an agreement with Hiroyuki Nakajima, Japanese shortstop extraordinaire. He's had a nice career in Japan, with a career .310/.381/.479 line and a positive defensive reputation. It's hard to figure out what those stats translate to. But here's a reminder:

Brandon Crawford .225/.291/.336

That projection is from the 2012 ZiPS projections, and it would be good for a 70 OPS+. Since moving to San Francisco, here are the shortstops that have done worse than a 70 OPS+:

Player Year OPS+ Age AB HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Edgar Renteria 2009 67 32 460 5 .250 .307 .328 .635
Omar Vizquel 2007 61 40 513 4 .246 .305 .316 .621
Royce Clayton 1994 67 24 385 3 .236 .295 .327 .623
Jose Uribe 1986 70 27 453 3 .223 .315 .280 .596
Hal Lanier 1969 46 26 495 0 .228 .263 .251 .514
Hal Lanier 1968 38 25 486 0 .206 .222 .239 .461
Hal Lanier 1967 42 24 525 0 .213 .239 .255 .494
Jose Pagan 1963 67 28 483 6 .234 .277 .300 .577
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/5/2012, possibly by a guy who hasn't taken his sweatpants off for several days now.


Such fond memories, all. The odd thing about that list is that Renteria helped the Giants win a World Series, and Vizquel is still a beloved figure among Giants fans, as is Jose Uribe (and even Clayton, to a lesser extent). I have a Jose Uribe Starting Lineup figurine staring at me right now, even. It makes Uribe look like someone who ate Jose Canseco to build muscle. I guess we just love our punchless shortstops here. Weak-hitting shortstops are the sourdough bread of roster spots!

And now I'm looking at this Nakajima cat and wondering, wondering, wondering. Could he have been a .270/.330/.410 hitter in the majors? Oh, man, how sweet that would have been. And that's not overly optimistic, I wouldn't think.

The Yankees bid $2.5 million just for the rights to negotiate with him, and there's no word on whether talks fell apart because of the contract Nakajima was expecting, or because he'd have to be a caddy for Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. If he was looking for a three year, $19 million deal, well, that wasn't going to work.

But from here those awful grapes sure look awful. And delicious!

If I had to rank the offseason regrets, it would go something like this:

  1. Not coming over the top with a 2/$30M offer to keep Carlos Beltran*
  2. Not getting a shortstop likely to crack a .700 OPS
  3. Not getting a guy like Melky Cabrera to make sure that Brandon Belt didn't get so many at-bats.

Whoops! Looks like that last one came true! Sweet. This offseason was soooooo easy. I'm a simple man. I didn't expect Prince Fielder. And if Carlos Beltran was going to get a three- or four-year deal from an American League team, it wasn't going to happen. But in hindsight, man, things sure could have been a bit more exciting on the ol' roster-building front. I'll miss pretending that Nakajima would have be an excitement lozenge in the scratchy throat of the offseason.

* To keep the analogy going, Carlos Beltran isn't a bunch of grapes, but rather a delicious and expensive vintage wine with a crumbly-ass cork on top that's about to disintegrate.

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