Monday, July 27, 2015

Trade Talks: Who can the Lions give up for a possible swap?

Atsushi Okamoto could be viewed as expendable
The NPB Trade deadline is on July 31st. It is the exact same day as it is in MLB. However, with Japan 16 hours ahead of Pacific Time zone, this deadline essentially on July 30 for those living in North America.

For those who don't know, trades in Japan are very minor and activity is not as large as it is in Major League Baseball. Unless you count posting fees to MLB teams, blockbuster trades are extremely rare in Japan, because the logic by management would be that they gave up too much to get someone good. There would be more criticism from the media and others claiming the team paid a high price for a player.

One big exception was when Yoshio Itoi was traded by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters to the Orix Buffaloes, but that happened in the offseason after 2012. It isn't impossible, but they're hard to find for the most part.

Most of the time, teams will keep players that are productive and don't let them walk in free agency as much in comparison to MLB. Another unusual thing is how players are commonly free agents in the middle of a season because their contracts are based on games of service time with the ichi-gun. You can essentially save a few games of contract on a pitcher if there is a shortened week by deactivating him.

Trades in NPB are about players who are expendable to teams. Management most likely has no plan or idea what to do with a player they traded and they hope to just remove someone and have addition by subtraction getting another player who was viewed as useless.

At the time of this writing, there has only been one trade this season where it involved the Yomiuri Giants and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. They swapped an outfielder and pitcher as all four players were buried on the depth charts. Hokkaido picked up OF Kenji Yano and P Hideki Sunaga while the Giants acquired P Toshiyuki Yanuki and OF Atsushi Kita. So far, Yano has proved to be decent off the bench for the Fighters as a reserve outfielder and the trade has worked in their favor up to this point.

The Lions have picked up infielders Naoto Watanabe and Yuji Onizaki by trade out of the players on the team's 28-man roster. Logically, the Lions could try and look for another reliever needing a change of scenery, but it is still a longshot that any trade action comes this week.

Here we will take a look at who the Lions could give up for another player that could be seen as deadweight. This list was formed with logic and based on observation of what the Lions have done with certain players. I view these people as players in the doghouse.

RP Taiki Nakago: Nakago was the compensation choice by the Lions in 2014 when they let Hideaki Wakui walk in free agency at the end of 2013 as he signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines. He was a decent reliever in Chiba, but couldn't be effective in 2014. Nakago has yet to play a game in 2015 with the Ichi-gun.

RP Atsushi Okamoto: Okamoto started the year with the ichi-gun team and was decent last year in relief. However, the Lions management deactivated him after a bad outing in Yokohama and has not given him a chance since. Trading him would seem like a long shot, but it wouldn't surprise us knowing how they haven't played him in awhile.

RP Masamitsu Hirano: Hirano has been buried by the Lions and has only played in 10 games for both the 2012 and 2014 seasons combined. His inactivity would prompt a possible trade.

C Takanori Hoshi: Hoshi was acquired by the Lions through a trade in 2011, but he has only been a backup for four seasons behind Ginjiro Sumitani. He played in 11 games for 2014 and with Masatoshi Okada currently their backup, it doesn't look like there's room for him.

C Tatsuyuki Uemoto: He started in 2010 when Sumitani was hurt, but has seen limited playing time since. Like Hoshi, there just isn't room for him with Tomoya Mori being a possible project and Okada as the backup.

OF Ryo Sakata: Sakata was on the ichi-gun at the start of the year, but his poor bat led to a demotion in the first month of the season. The right field position has been a flex spot in the lineup, but it doesn't look like the Lions are giving him another chance.


Realistically, we don't see a trade happening even though the team has struggled with a six game losing streak. Management could panic from within and keep trying to tamper with the lineup on occasion as well as use the bullpen in different ways, but roster changes are meant for the offseason.


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  1. I miss Nakago. He was always a nice choice out of the pen for us and we were quite disappointed when he was selected.

    I'm a bit surprised Sakata hasn't done well lately - he seemed to be breaking out in 2013 before getting injured before the 2014 season. Maybe that injury (thigh, if I recall) has proven to be difficult to return from?

    1. They gave him an early chance, just wasn't hitting and haven't given him one since April.