While waiting on the result of a bid for a Japanese ace, the Chicago Cubs may be interested in acquiring a Japanese positional player.

Ken Rosenthal reports that the the Cubs have interest in Japanese middle infielder, Hiroyuki Nakajima. So, are we in for another posting process?

Nope. Nakajima’s post already happened, and the Yankees won the rights.

Apparently, however, the Yankees are considering signing Nakajima and then trading him, in part because Nakajima would prefer a starting job, and, on the Yankees, he wouldn’t have that opportunity.

You’re probably wondering what I first wondered: if the Cubs really wanted Nakajima, why didn’t they just bid on him?

Well, maybe they did. The Yankees won the post with a $2.5 million bid, and we don’t presently have any reason to be certain that the Cubs didn’t bid a lesser amount.

The 29-year-old Nakajima is primarily a shortstop with excellent hands and good range, but his limited arm strength might suit him better to second base.

Nakajima’s numbers in Japan have been quite good, especially for a middle infielder, as he’s averaged about a .310/.380/.500 line. How would those numbers translate in the States? Extrapolating is never a perfect science, but we can make an educated guess.

A quick comparison could be someone like Akinori Iwamura, who put up similar numbers in Japan at a similar age (Nakajima’s are slightly better across the board). After coming to the States, Iwamura’s numbers dropped dramatically, as is typically the case in the transition – his average, which had hovered around .300 in Japan, fell to the .285 range in his first three years in the bigs; his OBP, which had been around .370, fell to about .350; and his SLG, which had been around .540, fell to just .400.

So, while it would be fair to expect a .270/.280 average and a .350/.360 OPB for Nakajima, which would be fine, that SLG is going to fall dramatically.

If Nakajima could put up that kind of line over the next year or two, he could easily supplant Darwin Barney as the primary second baseman, which would allow Barney to slide into a utility role (the Cubs do need a back-up shortstop), or be made available in trade.

But what would Nakajima cost in trade? Hard to say. For one thing, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Yankees – who have 30 days from December 7 to sign Nakajima – are going to wait to actually sign him until a trade is already agreed to. In that case, it’s hard to see them getting much more than their posting fee in return from the trading team. Maybe a prospect to grease the wheels. Or, the Yankees could say that they’ll eat the posting fee in exchange for a better player or prospect, essentially “buying” a $2.5 million player or prospect.

Nakajima is a true free agent in Japan after next year, though, so I can’t see a team giving up a great deal to acquire him in a pre-arranged deal with the Yankees when they could simply wait a year and sign him for only the price of a contract.

  • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

    I could see the Yankees flipping him for a back up infielder to replace him, or a speculative high-ceiling, high-risk prospect.

    From the Cubs, that would be Blake DeWitt as a possibility for the infielder, or someone like Abner Abreu or Michael Burgess as the prospect.

    As the Cubs, I’d do either deal.

    • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

      Yes, more defense, please.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Even the conservative extrapolation is much better than Darwin Barney.  I wouldn’t mind trading for him, depending on what is given up.  One of our other MI prospects? Dewitt? …other?

  • Ashley

    Love this idea but my question is that he plays SS would he want to play 2nd for the Cubs? I say if he will and the Cubs don’t have to give up too much than go for it!

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      All I’ve heard is that he wants a chance to be a starter, but not that he is looking for a particular position.

      On the Yankees, he would not be starting (unless they finally get Jeter off of short and into CF where he belongs, but that’s a different issue… and will probably never happen).

      • Ashley

        Right because the Yankees are set up the middle. I would love to have him if the Cubs don’t have to give up a ton and we don’t pay an arm and a leg for him.

  • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

    My scouting of Nakajima – i.e. looking at the picture above – raises questions about his toughness to stay on the base when turning the double play.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      Now you’ve got me looking at the picture.

      And that has to be one of the worst slides I’ve ever seen. Head first, and somehow he either turned so wide at first that he slid in from the outfield grass, or he wound up going across the base sideways.

      Matt Holliday can slide into second better than that.

  • Andy

    Hitting prospects from Japan are kind of messed up.  Matt Murton has been among the league leaders in batting average and home runs there.   It says something that our AAAA players go to Japan and tear it up.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      Sure, it says that the Japanese leagues are roughly at the AA or AAA level of the American minor leagues. Conventional wisdom used be to they were roughly AA, but I think its gotten better over there in the past decade or so. It may not be at the AAA level yet, but I bet its close if it isn’t.

    • die hard

      another one that got away was Murton…nice hitter and not given a real chance…theory is that then front office wary of red heads…wonder what now front office is wary of?

      • ferrets_bueller

        He was given a huge chance, and proved to be exactly what he was- a guy who sacrificed nearly all of his potential power in order to make contact.  His swing was one that would net a high-ish average, but little to no power.  Which is great…unless you’re an OF.  And on top of being a powerless OF, he played very poor defense.  How many teams want to start a guy with an empty BA and no defense in the OF?

  • Michael Vazquez

    I’ve always loved the Castro-Barney combo up the middle. I would only be interested if Cubs would prefer him as utility/backup and swap Dewitt for him.

    • die hard

      Barney is type of player that WAR cant measure…hes got the many attributes of the type of team player Cubs need to succeed…and Castro belongs in RF

      • Dumpman

        Lol… What? You just get done playing MLB The Show or something? RF? You could put up a logical argument to move Castro to 2b or 3b.. But RF?

        • jtfromthed

          hey you can laugh all you want, but I had alfonso  soriano pitch an inning of relief in that game and it was a 1-2-3 inning with no hits!

          I had actually put him in as a pinch hitter for the pitcher and just went ahead and left him in haha

          • Adam H

            Yes the definition of a 1-2-3 inning means no hits so you adding a redundant “with no hits” is unnecessary.

            • jtfromthed

              ever heard of a double play?

              • LWeb23

                I wouldnt consider an inning with a double play as a 1-2-3 inning

    • Adam H

      The whole reason the Yankees can’t sign him is he doesn’t want to be a backup. So why would you say the cubs should get him as a backup? Use your head. He’s more than likely better than Barney.

  • Jeff

    Castro belongs in RF? Please put down the egg nog and go take a nap. Allow Castro to grow into his body and then determine his best INFIELD position. Right now he is SS, possible 3rd and probably an awesome 2nd basemen. As you should be well aware, outfield positions are a “fall back” when players aren’t good enough to play their infield positions (like Dunston and Jeter) at the end of their careers or you need their bat and want to hide defensive liabilities.
    Better yet, Win the Darvish Posting and have another Japanese person to “connect” with in the states. I am sure this player can make the transition on Darvish easier…..Merry X-mas Die Hard.

  • jtfromthed

    hahaha… Castro in right, hilarious!

    Hey let’s move big Z to catcher and Soto to center while we’re at it!

    • Andrew

      Jt, you got it all wrong. Soto is moving to 3rd, Big Z to 1st. Ian Stewart is going to be a middle reliever.

      • fearbobafett

        Big Z would be all over that, he could hit every day then. Heck he took 2nd in the home run derby he just participated in.

        • Adam H

          He didn’t take 2nd in the derby. He tied for last with 2 HR and didn’t even advance to 2nd round.

  • hogie

    Ask the Twins how this experiment went last year with Nishioka.

  • Jay

    Replacing Barney would be a huge mistake, huge. The Cubs have needed a player like him for about, oh i don’t know, say 100 years. His intangibles are immeasurable and his passion is contagious. He had the potential to be a Derek Jeter type player. Sometimes the stats don’t paint the whole picture, not that Barney’s stats are bad, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story. That being said trading sounds exactly like something the Cubs would do. Might be the best thing for him, he can go somewhere else, be an allstar and win a championship. Better than being stuck playing for a bunch of fans that don’t appreciate his special ability.

    • TWC

      Oh, Jay, baby, if you’re serious, get used to disappointment, kid. I mean Barney’s stats *are* bad — really bad. It’s really too bad for him that his intangibles are immeasurable, ’cause there ain’t much left over to measure.

  • Cubsfankevin

    yeah barney an allstar. his .313obp would be great for setting  the table.