Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Seibu Lions part ways with Vasquez, Paulino and Lee

In what was another offseason announcement of cuts, the Saitama Seibu Lions announced three players who would not be back for next season. Imports Esmerling Vasquez, C.C. Lee and Felipe Paulino will not be offered a contract and have become free agents, as announced on Tuesday.

Vasquez was the only foreigner retained from the wave of imports from 2015. He would end up being inconsistent with control and was eventually demoted after a poor inning in July where he hit multiple batters with the bases loaded. Vasquez had a 5.51 ERA in 16.1 innings.

Lee would fail to earn meaningful innings outside of opening day and fell out of favor with the coaches early on. It just never came together in spring training and it stemmed over into the regular season.

The team tried to ease him in during a 6-0 lead against the Softbank Hawks back in March, but he failed his test and only had low leverage outings since then. In 16.2 innings with the ichi-gun, he would have a 6.48 ERA.

Paulino was a mid-season addition after it was clear the Lions didn't have the starting pitcher depth they needed as both Yusei Kikuchi and Takayuki Kishi were injured. He would start a handful of games, but earn no wins and began to fall off with a demotion to the bullpen.

While his record was not good, Paulino should have earned at least one win, but he either wasn't getting run support or defense behind him. With 44 innings pitched, he would go 0-6 with a 4.70 ERA and didn't see ichi-gun time in September.

With the Lions cutting three players, that means two other imports will most likely be retained for 2017. Chun-Lin Kuo will be 25 in February and the most recent gaijin Brian Wolfe passed his audition test with a strong end to the regular season.

Wolfe, who turns 36 at the end of this month, had a decent run of four games where he had a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings. The Lions gave him enough run support to have a 4-0 record, but he gave them a chance as well.

Compared to other imports, Wolfe already has experience in Japan and knows what it's like being in the Pacific League. Despite his age, his arm does not have the same mileage on it like other pitchers as he spent most of 2014-2015 recovering from an injury.

The Lions also gave Ernesto Mejia a three-year extension right before the regular season ended. If we include Atsushi Okamoto's retirement, the Lions officially have cut 10 players from their 2016 roster. With six players drafted, assuming they all sign, it would create four open roster spots which should bring in a new wave of imports.

Their obvious need will be pitcher once again, but a defensive minded infielder wouldn't hurt. Expect at least two foreign signings from this winter with the possibility of up to four.


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