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2011 NPB Trade Review

by Patrick Newman (Aug 2, 2011)

As usual, the NPB trade/player acquisition deadline passed with a whimper. There were, however, seven trades consummated over the course of the season, with the Seibu Lions and Yomiuri Giants being the most active on the market. Here's a rundown.

Takuya Takahama to Lotte, from Hanshin as compensation for signing Hiroyuki Kobayashi – There were rumors that Lotte would wind up with a more established player; instead they got infield prospect Takahama. He's hitting .215 at ni-gun. Verdict: not sure who else was available to Lotte but it appears they wound up with a very ordinary farmhand.

Naotaka Takehara to Orix, cash to Lotte - Orix has, by and large, done a good job at getting useful contributions out of castoffs from other places. Takehara has not been one of those moves, as the Buffaloes gave him just 16 at bats at the top level. Verdict: Lotte wins, cash and a roster spot for a guy they weren't going to use.

Shinji Takahashi to Yomiuri, cash to Nippon Ham - Takahashi is once-productive contact-hitting catcher/first baseman who fell on hard times in 2010, and apparently found himself without a role in Hokkaido. Yomiuri seems to have acquired him with pinch hitting in mind, but so far that idea hasn't panned out as Takahashi only has one hit in 13 at bats. He is, however, hitting well at ni-gun, so maybe he has something left. Verdict: nice buy-low opportunity Yomiuri. We'll see where he fits in next year.

Takanori Hoshi to Seibu, cash to Yomiuri - This one makes some sense. Hoshi's path to ichi-gun was effectively blocked by the presence of catchers Shinnosuke Abe and Kazunari Tsuruoka, and Yomiuri has pretty good catching depth at ni-gun. Meanwhile, Seibu is down a man, having lost Toru Hosokawa to free agency last offseason. Hoshi still appears to be the low man on Seibu's catching totem pole, but he'll have less blockage from the top levels. Perhaps more importantly to the media, it prevents the Hoshi from realizing his "Kyojin no Hoshi" destiny. Verdict: in theory this seems like a good idea for Seibu.

Chikara Onodera to Yakult, Yuji Onizaki to Seibu - Onodera is a righty reliever with a hard fastball who enjoyed several years of success toward the back of Seibu's bullpen until falling down the depth chart last season, then off the radar completely this year. Perhaps in anticipation of losing shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima this offseason, Seibu took this opportunity to move him into urban Tokyo in exchange for infield farmhand Onizaki. Onodera got lit up and demoted at Yakult, while Onizaki has taken over as Seibu's ni-gun starting shortstop. Verdict: instinctively I prefer this deal for Seibu, though Onizaki is 28 and I have to wonder how much upside he has left.

Hirotaka Egusa to Seibu, Haruki Kurose to Hanshin - Lefty reliever Egusa was a key cog in Hanshin's excellent bullpen from 2005-2009, before seeing his effectiveness (and velocity) fade in 2010. Supplanted by newcomers like Daiki Enokida, Hanshin swapped him for utility infielder Kurose, who himself had been made redundant with Seibu's acquisition of Onizaki. This trade was essentially the other half of the Onodera deal, which took place one day earlier. Seibu has been struggling all season to find regular bullpen contributors, so it made sense for them to take a chance on a guy like Egusa, but so far it hasn't worked out. Egusa only got eight innings at ichi-gun, where he walked nine batters, though he's been better at ni-gun. Verdict: can't fault Seibu for trying.

Saburo Ohmura to Yomiuri, Takahito Kudo to Lotte - And in the only trade of the year involving at least one player capable of starting, Yomiuri grabbed Saburo in exchange for reserve OF Kudo. This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. Clearly Yomiuri wanted to inject some life into its lineup. Saburo was not a bad pickup, but he's another outfielder on the wrong side of 35. Meanwhile, Lotte gets a player in Kudo who has never established an ability to play a large chunk of the season. Oddly, Lotte started Kudo several games immediately after acquiring him, indicating that the were interested in him as a starter. Verdict: talent for talent, a win for Yomiuri.


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