Sox Rounding Up Another Japanese Star?

Not only is Matsuzaka in the fold, but it appears another Japanese player is set to sign with Boston. His name is Hideki Okajima, a 30-year old left handed reliever from the Hokkaido Ham Fighters. Career Stats

I like this for many reasons: One, it appears the Orioles are gobbling up every potential setup man on the market without the Sox getting anyone. Secondly, his numbers last season were filthy: 2.14 ERA, 63 K in 54 IP. In addition to Okajima’s effectiveness, I’m willing to bet this is to help Matsuzaka’s transition – a fellow Japanese player speaking the same language and going through the same adjustment period. Also, Okajima is a winner. His team won the Pacific League title last season and played for the Yomuri Giants for almost his entire career.

”I just want to play for a team that gives a high rating to what I’ve done,” Okajima said. ”I’ve got a clear direction regarding my future. I’m in pretty good shape now and I think this is a very good opportunity for me (to play in the major leagues).”

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Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

20 Responses to “Sox Rounding Up Another Japanese Star?” Subscribe

  1. Evan October 12, 2005 at 11:50 AM #

    Haha, that'd be something I'd love to see, Rob. I'm not neccessarily promoting BP ideal. It's a fascinating book to be sure, and the Red Sox did build a team that Baseball Prospectus drooled over last year … and if Baseball Prospectus took over a team and GM'd it, I have no doubt they'd be a very good team.
    But, and a big but … BP's way to win is not the only way to win, as you so accurately depict.
    Which is why I'm sure BP is rooting hard for the Cardinals…

  2. josh November 28, 2006 at 5:32 PM #

    I heard about this possibility a few weeks ago, but it'd quieted down since. Love it. Really love it. And all the better if he can close. Great K/9…but not a big fan of his control or other peripherals. But we need a lefty, we need a power arm to close or setup, and there are no other FA options that look any better.
    Plus there's the whole psychological benefit for Matsuzaka. Coming stateside must be one hell of a transition for any Japanese player to make, and I would imagine it would be a little easier with another teammate around who speaks the same language.

  3. kevin November 28, 2006 at 5:51 PM #

    Don't have much to add other than that I love the name "Ham Fighters" even more every time I read about them.
    (I know that's not really what it means, but come on… it rocks anyway.)

  4. josh November 28, 2006 at 6:22 PM #

    And it looks like the Yanks won negotiation rights with Kei Igawa…with a reported bid of $25MM. This after supposedly bidding only $30MM for Matsuzaka. Really doesn't look like too smart a move…scouts have typically rated Igawa as a No. 3 at best; most believe he's a 4 or 5. And in our division…who knows if he'll even be a No. 5? But at least he should give them 200 innings…assuming he doesn't get rocked out of the rotation. :)

  5. Schulz November 28, 2006 at 6:34 PM #

    I like the sound of this Okajima guy.
    Must be the lefty reliever Theo keeps mentioning.
    Great for the bullpen, great for Matsuzaka (if he ever gets signed), great for the whole "growing Japanese market."

  6. johnw November 28, 2006 at 10:35 PM #

    "It appears the Orioles are gobbling up every potential setup man on the market…" Am I missing something? By my count, they've signed Danys Baez, a bad closer and sometimes-good middle reliever, and Jamie Walker, a highly overpriced situational lefty. And they traded reliever Chris Britton for Jaret Wright.
    So they've netted one relief pitcher so far. And as far as I'm concerned, free-agent relievers are a crapshoot at best — especially the likes of Baez and Walker. So far, I do not fear the Birdmen.
    As for the basic point, I agree… the Sox have work to do in the pen, and Okajima sounds good to me.

  7. Evan November 28, 2006 at 10:52 PM #

    Danys Baez
    Jamie Walker
    Scott Williamson
    Chad Bradford
    And I wanted every single one of them in Boston.

  8. RH November 28, 2006 at 10:53 PM #

    John W,
    The Orioles also added Chad Bradford and Scott Williamson today; both to three year contracts.
    I love the addition of Okajima, though his numbers are a bit inconsistent — his ERA is well over 4.00 in a couple of his seasons in Japan. He's very solid vs. LHH though, so he should benefit the 'pen a lot.
    Speaking of Igawa, here's one scout's take…
    "Kei Igawa is an average pitcher who will get a lot of MLB interest because he's a lefty. His stuff isn't particularly good — an average fastball and several inconsistent breaking pitches — and although his control is solid, Igawa doesn't use it as well as he should. If he goes to a tough division [-- such as the AL East --], he likely will be demoted to #5 starter duty because he won't be able to miss enough bats to survive the top-of-the-rotation."
    I'm happy the Yanks got him — he's the next Jaret Wright, only righthanded.

  9. mouse November 29, 2006 at 12:40 AM #

    Love it. Potentially good for our terrible bullpen, good for more Asian PR, and most likely good for Matsuzaka too. DO IT.
    I love that the Yankees bid almost as much money for a guy with nowhere near the ceiling of Matsuzaka. I guess Igawa is supposed to be some sort of consolation prize? [Snicker] Let the Yanks fans jaw about the posting fees now–I dare them.
    Rotoworld's take was pretty funny: "Igawa's stuff has drawn mixed reviews, and while he might be well ahead of MLB hitters in his first season in the U.S., it seems unlikely that he'll settle in as more than a third or fourth starter. If it costs a total of $40 million to bring him in for three years, we have a new candidate for the biggest bust of the winter."
    OK, WAY too early to be crowing, but I can't help but laugh anyway.

  10. josh November 29, 2006 at 1:17 AM #

    Yeah dude, I saw Rotoworld's take and started laughing myself. But you left out the best part: "There's little chance that Igawa will compare to Matsuzaka in the majors. He's likely to be a 3rd or 4th starter at best, and it's possible he won't even be a good No. 5." But you're right, it's way too early to start giggling. And This article is quite a bit more optimistic…which leaves me wondering what to believe.

  11. RH November 29, 2006 at 2:25 AM #

    But look at this NEW post from the same website…
    This was a stupid move by the Yankees and I'll be laughing when Igawa goes 6-14 with a 6.00ERA or gets bombarded coming out of the bullpen. The Yankees spend a lot but they usually spend well — they spent too much and it wasn't for a worthwhile player here.
    Plenty of reason for Sox fans to celebrate the Yanks mistake — and look forward to a pitching matchup of Matsuzaka vs. Igawa, which Daisuke will certainly win (in your face Steinbrenner…!)

  12. josh November 29, 2006 at 3:06 AM #

    Wow, nice find RH. I found that link I posted earlier on a rumors website…never actually checked it out to see if they'd updated. Haha, I don't really want to wait until May to start gloating, but I think that's still the smartest thing to do.

  13. RH November 29, 2006 at 4:58 AM #

    Here's another if you want to keep gloating…
    But seriously, I think we should stop now lest we somehow anti-jinx Igawa and help him turn into a Randy Johnson.
    What the heck, I'll throw this in here…I'm envisioning Igawa and the guy that comes to mind right away is Irabu (I have no clue why) — wouldn't that be nice…?!

  14. RH November 29, 2006 at 6:42 AM #

    The Red Sox have agreed to a 5-year deal worth $74Million with JD Drew. It'll be announced on Weds or Thurs, according to a friend of mine who is close friends with a scout for the SF Giants.

  15. Sam November 29, 2006 at 9:52 AM #

    I'd like to gloat about Igawa, who I believe will get hit hard; but then I'm pretty unsure about what we'll get from Matsuzaka, so I have a nagging little feeling that tells me I might be wise to reserve judgment.
    Matsuzaka's K numbers worry me.

  16. johnw November 29, 2006 at 1:00 PM #

    Darn! If only I'd signed up for ESPN Mobile when I had the chance, I would have been up to date with the Orioles' signings of retread relievers. Sorry…

  17. Peter N November 29, 2006 at 2:27 PM #

    And DMat is anything but a done deal…are the Sox covering up by sending LL to Japan to grovel, moneywise, with the club there just to hide their upcoming mid-Dec. failure? I hope not…..

  18. Sam November 29, 2006 at 9:33 PM #

    If the Padres offer Manny for Peavy straightup, you have to do it, regardless of whether it fits our needs or not. We can sort out the details afterwards. Let Becket be the damn closer for all I care.

  19. josh November 30, 2006 at 5:15 AM #

    Herald says Okajama is official. Great curve, doesn't throw very hard. I've read that he projects as a lefty specialist, or maybe a decent MR. Nothing we should pin our hopes on. But still…it'll be nice to finally have somebody who can pitch to lefties.

  20. jonny874 December 11, 2006 at 7:01 AM #