The Arizona Diamondbacks will enter the winter meetings assaying their options on additions to the rotation, the left side of the infield and the bench. General manager Kevin Towers has a resume bulging with winter-meetings deals, but that does not mean he expects to be overly active in Nashville.
"You have to wheel and deal for the right guys," Towers said.
One possible option for the left side appears to be Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who is a free agent this winter. The D-backs gave Nakajima, 30, a tour of their Chase Field facilities the day before Thanksgiving, a visit that may have simply been an information-gathering session for each side. The player and the team were not believed to have held contract talks.
The D-backs got a look at Nakajima during their tour of Japan in early August last year, a trip that included president/CEO Derrick Hall, Towers, special assistant Bob Gebhard and director of Pacific Rim operations Mack Hayashi. The New York Yankees paid Seibu a $2 million posting fee after the 2011 season for the exclusive major league negotiating rights to Nakajima, but the sides failed to reach agreement on a contract. Nakajima returned to Seibu, where he hit .311 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 74 RBI.
Cliff Pennington is penciled in as the D-backs' shortstop after being acquired from Oakland in the three-team deal Nov. 20 in which they also acquired right-hander Heath Bell from Miami and sent center fielder Chris Young to the A's. However, Arizona still is investigating the shortstop market. Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald also are candidates at shortstop, although the D-backs appear to prefer Bloomquist in a handyman role moving forward.
Nakajima, a right-handed hitter, joined the Japanese professional league in 2003 and has spent all but one of his 10 professional seasons with Seibu, where he had 16 home runs and a career-high 100 RBI in 2011. He has four 20-homer seasons and three 20-stolen base seasons. He is a four-time All-Star, and he played on the 2009 Japanese team that won the World Baseball Classic, getting two doubles and two RBI in a 9-4 semifinal victory over Team USA. Nakajima, who won a Gold Glove in 2008, also has played third base.
At the same time, the assimilation into the major leagues has not worked well for all. Japanese infield contemporaries Munenori Kawasaki and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have had difficult adjustments in recent years. Kawasaki, 31, hit .192 in 61 games with the Seattle Mariners last season, his first in the majors after signing a one-year contract for $625,000. Nishioka hit .226 with the Minnesota Twins in 2011 and was released Sept. 28 after playing only three games in the majors in 2012. Nishioka, 28, signed a two-year, $6 million with Minnesota before the 2011 season.