Hiroyuki Nakajima, shortstop/infield, Saitama Seibu Lions
If Nakajima’s name sounds familiar, that’s probably because he was posted last offseason, and his negotiating rights were won by the Yankees. Nakaji and Bombers failed to agree to a contract, so he hopped in his Ferrari and headed back to the Lions for another year, and put up a healthy .311/.382/.451 slash line. His batting average might have led the Pacific League had Lotte not gutlessly pitched around him on the last day of the season, but instead he ended up one point behind Katsuya Kakunaka. His OBP ranked second in the Pacific League, and his slugging pct was fourth, and well ahead of the next middle infielder. In the field he seems to make the play he gets to, but has lost some range, and the consensus is that he’s probably not a full-time MLB shortstop.
Anyway, now Nakajima is back on the market as a free agent. I was a big fan of the idea of Nakaji in New York, acclimatizing himself to MLB while getting 300 or so at-bats spelling Derek Jeter at SS and Alex Rodriguez at 3B, but obviously that didn’t come to fruition. There were other MLB teams interested in Nakajima last time around, so I think there is little doubt he’ll find an MLB deal this year, but it will remain to be seen what kind of role he winds up in….
Hideki Okajima, relief pitcher, Softbank Hawks
You guys remember Okajima. After the Yankees terminated his contract last year (that’s two nearly-Yankees Jima’s this list), Okie signed with Softbank and had a strong year, not allowing an earned run until August. He’s angling for an MLB return this offseason.