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Giants Are, Aren't Interested in Hiroyuki Nakajima

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There was a report earlier from Jon Morosi that the Giants submitted a posting bid for Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The report was quickly shot down by John Shea, possibly because the front office was worried that fans were getting too interested in Giants-related news. Put down the Twitter and buy some panda hats, you ungrateful slobs.

Nakajima's greatest asset is that he allows Giants fans to dream of a shortstop who isn't bocockianly futile at the plate. He might be bocockian, mind you, but for a couple of months, you could close your eyes and picture Nakajima coming over and playing like Jimmy Rollins in his prime. Just slapping the ball all over Mays Field. Running hither and thither all over the place. Taking out a picture of Orlando Cabrera during the press conference and going all Sinead O'Connor on it. The dreams are beautiful.

But he could certainly come over and hit like a true Giant wherever he goes. We're talking a true 2011 Giant, with an on-base percentage below .300 and a bat that's completely devoid of power. He's such an unknown. You'd just have to trust the Giants to scout him well and determine that he'd be an asset to the team. You know, the same Giants' scouting trust that's brought you below-average offense after below-average offense since 2005. Sounds like it can't miss.

A problem for an article like this is that it's hard to read NPB stats and translate them. You almost certainly need scouting to go along with it, which is something nerds like us don't have. I mean, we don't even watch the silly games when it's American baseball; why would we watch games from a totally different country? And it would be easy to get excited about stats like this:

Year Age Tm G AB BA OBP SLG
2010 25 Chiba Lotte 144 596 .346 .423 .482
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 12/5/2011.

Only to find stats like this on the bottom of your shoe:

Year Tm PA HR BA OBP SLG
2011 MIN 240 0 .226 .278 .249
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 12/5/2011.


That's the kind of line that would have been the worst performance on the 2010 Giants. It takes skill to do that, and the line belonged to Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who probably excited Twins fans last offseason before giving them Neifmares in the offseason.

Just because Nishioka flopped, of course, doesn't mean that Nakajima would flop. Even though they're middle infielders coming over from the same league, they aren't identical. Nakajima is far more established than Nishioka was, for example. He's had five far above-average seasons in the NPB, whereas Nishioka was coming off a career year that was largely driven by a high batting average. If you're looking at Nakajima's .297/.354/.433 line last year and wrinkling your nose, don't forget that it was 1968 in Japan last year. That was actually a crazy-good line considering the league-wide offensive slump.

The overall point still stands, though. Nakajima would be an unknown. That's great while forming your own fanboy fantasies in your mind, but it could be bad in practice. He could flail so wildly against major-league pitching that you'd dreaming of whichever Alex Gonzalez could get to SFO quicker. And that would probably mean that Brandon Crawford would go nuts in AAA, which would lead to everyone clamoring for a Crawford call-up that would never happen. Sounds like fun, actually.

But I love the news that the Giants might be interested. Nishioka received a 3-year/$9-million contract, which isn't a big deal, even after including the $5 million posting fee the Twins paid. The team lost the gamble, but it wasn't a bad idea. The risk/reward for a deal like that was heavily slanted towards reward, and it would make sense that Nakajima would get a similar contract (Nakajima is better, but Nishioka was younger). There aren't any guarantees that Nakajima would outhit Brandon Crawford for 15 times the price, but there would be a chance that the position could be an asset instead of a sinkhole.

It's December. The Giants' big and only upgrade of the offseason was Melky Cabrera. Just give me a sliver of hope that the Giants will have a shortstop with an on-base percentage over .325. It doesn't have to be a realistic fantasy -- just a sliver of hope, that's all I ask. If I had to guess, I'd wager that Nakajima would come far closer to earning his contract than would Nishioka. But the chance that he'd be even more -- the wild, irresponsible hopes that he could come over and approximate his NPB production in the majors -- is what excites me.

Heck, put Cespedes in center field, and the Giants would lead the NL in runs scored. In my mind. Which would be good enough for a cold winter's night. I'm in on Nakajima. Hope the Giants are too.