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Offseason Changes: Orix Buffaloes

by Patrick Newman (Feb 5, 2011)

Coming: Hayato Terahara, Chan Ho Park, Seung Yeop Lee, Mike Hessman, Alfredo Figaro, Evan MacLane, Kazuya Takamiya, Shinjiro Koyama, Tomochika Tsuboi, Kentaro Kuwabara, Shingo Nonaka, Masahide Kobayashi, Toshio Saito

Going: Alex Cabrera, Shogo Yamamoto, Go Kida, Jon Leicester, Greg LaRocca, Fernando Seguignol, Freddie Bynum, Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara, Naoyuki Ohmura, Osamu Hamanaka, Masahiro Nagata, Ikki, Mitsuhiro Mitsuhara

Staying: Aarom Baldiris, Mitsutaka Gotoh, Francisco Caraballo, So Taguchi, Freddy Ballestas

Summary: Last season, Orix posted a surprisingly competitive fifth-place, 69-71-4 season. I've written plenty about my admiration for Orix's personnel moves, and nothing has happened this offseason to change my mind. Well, the new uniforms are underwhelming, but I'll let that slide.

On the mound, Orix has added four rotation candidates, while subtracting Yamamoto, who was ineffective in 2010. Each of the four new starters has blemishes: age (Park), health (Terahara), unproven-ness (Figaro, MacLane). But they all have upside as well, particularly Terahara, and if any one of them does well, Orix will have a very solid front rotation.

At the plate, Orix's most notable transaction is the loss of slugger Cabrera, who wanted a two-year deal and found one in Fukuoka. Despite his age (39), Cabrera remains an elite NPB slugger when he is in the lineup - he posted a Pacific League-best .997 OPS last year, but missed 32 games. The hope is obviously for some combination of at-bats from Lee and Hessman to make up for Cabrera's contribution, but I have my doubts. Lee hasn't had a good year since 2007 and is a shadow of his former self, and Hessman has great power but is also known for piling up strikeouts. I've been bullish on Hessman though, and I'm standing by that.

Another key point to make is that last year the Buffaloes got breakthrough performances from Gotoh, T-Okada, Aarom Baldiris and to a lesser extent, Makoto Moriyama. Orix will need them to post strong follow up seasons in order to remain competitive.

Overall I think Orix has done enough to take a step forward in 2011. The rub is that even if they do, the Pacific League is so balanced that they still might not make the playoffs.


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