Two weeks ago, when I asked readers at my other job to help me generate a list of new sukketo candidates, I noted the need for two new third baseman in NPB 2011. I specifically had Rakuten and Hiroshima in mind when I wrote that, and both teams added a player to man the hot corner today.
Rakuten opened up third base early in the off season, when they parted ways with veteran Norihiro Nakamura. Nori was part of an anemic Rakuten offense that finished last in runs in 2010. Though his .266/.329/.397 line was an improvement from his dreadful .222 performance in 2009, it was still an obvious position to upgrade. Enter Akinori Iwamura. Rakuten officially announced their signing of Aki on the 17th. Sanspo is calling the deal a two-year, 400m yen ($4.8m) pact, while Sports Hochi says that it includes incentives and an option year that could make it a three-year, 1bn yen ($12m) deal. That's a bit more than I would have expected Aki to command, but Rakuten has money to spend with Hisashi Iwakuma and Nori coming off the books, and Iwakuma's posting bounty being added to the income side of the ledger. And obviously Aki doesn't count as a foreign player, so Rakuten keeps their roster spots open to pursue more bats (Wladimir Balentien?).
Meanwhile down in Hiroshima, the Carp are closing in on signing Chad Tracy. The Chugoku Shimbun reported that the Carp were finishing up their inquiry with MLB on Tracy on the 16th, but it seems like this deal will happen. The Carp have relied on foreign players such as Scott Seabol and Scott McClain at third base since losing Takahiro Arai to free agency a few years ago, but I didn't expect them to go after a guy with Tracy's level of MLB experience. The Chugoku Shimbun called him the player with the most MLB experience that Hiroshima has ever imported, and I'd have to agree with them on that. Playing Tracy at third and Kenta Kurihara at first should be a big improvement at the plate and in the field over the experiment of Kuri at third and Justin Huber at first last season.
With the departure of Edgar Gonzales, we may see Yomiuri add a utility guy that can handle some third, but aside from that, I think every NPB team has their third baseman for 2011.