2010 Off-Season Player Transaction Summary

UPDATED: January 13, 2011

Since the end of the season, the Swallows have lost some players through cuts and retirement, the team has also gained some players through free agency and the draft. The team also managed to keep Chang-Yong Lim by resigning him to a lucrative contract. We have covered some of these moves, like the draft, quite extensively, others have been mentioned on our Twitter or in the comment section of some of our posts, still other moves haven’t been covered by us at all. This post will summarize all the major player transactions the team has executed during the offseason.

Retired

  • Munehiro Shida OF
  • Yuki Tanaka P

No surprises here. Both Shida and Tanaka were given a nice send off in the Swallows’ final game. Neither player was a major contributor and their retirement doesn’t really affect the Swallows’ plans. No other retirement have been announced since the season has ended.

Released

  • Hidehiro Okamoto P
  • Satoshi Nishizaki P
  • Jun Hagiwara P
  • Hiroki Yamada P
  • Yusuke Kajimoto INF
  • Koji Tsukamoto (Ikusei) P
  • Tony Barnette P
  • Hei-Chun Lee P
  • Jamie D’Antona INF
  • Eulogio De La Cruz P

These cuts can be separated between imports and non-imports. All of the non-import cuts feature players that haven’t been able to crack the top team, and didn’t factor into the team’s future. Some Tsubamengun writers have a special place in their heart for Yusuke Kajimoto, but the team’s current logjam at short seems to have pushed him out of the way. Among the imports, the only real surprise is the release of Jamie D’Antona. Despite some comments by Ogawa earlier in the offseason, which indicated that he’d like to keep Jamie, it seems the team decided to go in a different direction. Sponichi runs a series every year where they ask released players about memories of their old team, and it seems Jamie had some kind words to say about the team and its fans. You can find Jamie’s comments (in English and Japanese) here. We wish Jamie and all the other released players all the best in their future endeavors.

Drafted

  • Tetsuto Yamada INF
  • Yuki Shichijo P
  • Akihisa Nishida C
  • Tomoya Matano P
  • Kentaro Kyuko P
  • Nariaki Kawasaki OF
  • Koki Kitano (Ikusei) OF
  • Keisuke Ueno (Ikusei) P
  • Takanori Sato (Ikusei) OF

We’ve already covered our draft picks in an earlier article, but now we can report that all drafted players have signed contracts with the team. The only players we think might get any significant playing time this year is Shichijo and Kyuko.

Signed

  • Wladimir Balentien OF
  • Osamu Hamanaka OF
  • Ryuji Miyade OF

Balentien is a 26 year old right handed outfielder who is basically being brought in to replace Jamie D’Antona. Balentien’s minor league numbers show a player that can absolutely destroy minor league pitching, but with a high strikeout rate and below average OBP. Which is probably why Balentien has failed to replicate his minor league success when he has been up in the Majors. While I would not be surprised if Balentien has a hot start, whether he’ll be able to find sustained success in NPB is another matter.

Miyade and Hamanaka seem to have been brought in as potential right handed bats off the bench. Neither player had particularly good seasons last year, which is probably why they were available in the first place. Hamanaka only played in 4 ichi-gun games with the Orix Buffaloes last year because of a combination of injury and general ineffectiveness. It would seem that the Swallows are hoping to see something closer to the Hamanaka that belted 20 homeruns in 139 games in 2006 with the Hanshin Tigers. Miyade will be making his second tour of duty with the Swallows. He was shipped off to Rakuten in 2009 in the deal that brought Yasuhiro Ichiba to the Swallows. Miyade posted decent numbers in limited starts in his first year with the Eagles, but last year he saw his playing time dive as the Eagles decided to focus on developing their younger players. While there are no doubt some Miyade fans left in the Jingu stands, and I have had some Kansai people tell me they’ll be cheering for Hamanaka, I don’t think either signing will have a particularly big impact on the team’s success/failure.

Re-signed

This section will only look at free agents that were free to leave the team.

  • Chang-Yong Lim P
  • Tony Barnette P

Undoubtedly the biggest signing of the Swallows offseason was the re-signing closer Chang-Yong Lim. Despite some reports that indicated that talks had completely broken down, Lim re-signed for 2 years at 750 million yen plus incentives, with a third year mutual option that could earn him another 700 million yen. The Lim signing breaks a Swallows record for pitcher salary that was previously held by Kazuhisa Ishii. For those who question the logic of investing that much money on a player that will, at best, appear in only 80 innings, we’d point out that Chunichi’s Hitoki Iwase (and Kaz Sasaki before him) has set the financial bar quite high for prime closers with his deal, that Lim has been a tremendous asset, and that the money probably couldn’t have been used elsewhere without opening up questions in our bullpen. To me, at least for this season, whether Lim or any closer is worth that much money is secondary to the fact that we still have him on our team and the Giants don’t.

After failing to sign Young-Soo Bae (see below) the Swallows the Swallows were left with an extra import spot in their pitching staff. Being late in the offseason, it would seem that the Swallows decided to go with the devil they knew by re-signing Tony Barnette to a 1 year contract with a club option for a second year. Hopefully Barnette will stay healthy and show the dominant pitching he displayed at the beginning of last season.

Other Notable Transactions and Non-Transactions

  • Miyamoto signs 2 year deal.
  • Young-Soo Bae is NOT signed.

Miyamoto signed a 2 year deal in the offseason and seems to be gunning for the 2000 career hits that will get him into the Meikyukai. This probably means, for better or worse, we’ll be seeing a lot of Miyamoto playing third base for the foreseeable future.

The Swallows were also apparently close to signing KBO pitcher Young-Soo Bae, even agreeing to terms, but apparently the team backed out when Bae failed the team’s physical. In the past, the team has indicated a preference of splitting their import slots evenly between pitchers and fielders. Without Bae, the only import pitcher on the team is Lim, no word on whether the Swallows will be perusing another import pitcher.

Summary

The Swallows will be going into next season largely with the same team as last year. The only major change is the release of D’Antona and the signing of Balentien. Optimists will point to the team’s record after switching to Ogawa and will look forward to the growth of our young team. They may also say that that many of the splashiest signings/additions happened in the Pacific League, meaning our opponents aren’t significantly stronger than the ones we managed to beat in the tail end of the season. Pessimists will no doubt point to the rather lackluster September/October our team had last season, and will lament that many of the unresolved issues (SS and bullpen depth) we had last season remain unresolved. While the Swallows may add a few more bodies before the start of spring training, it’s probably safe to assume that the Swallows won’t be making any moves that will change the status quo significantly.

Swallows throw around some cash. (BTW Tsubakuro re-signed for 8960 yen.)

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.

  • DeGavph

    It seems Bae failed his physical due to Hep B. He would have been a great asset to the Swallows if he came about 5-6 years back, but from what I know he never really recovered from his injuries and his bout with the Tommy John surgery. Still hasn’t recovered his stuff.

    Anyway, Yakult does need to make a move for an import. Another good foreign arm will be a tremendous help. Whether he’s in the rotation or pen, Yakult needs to relieve the pressure on their weakened bullpen. There was way too much strain on Matsuoka alone this season. Lim’s a fantastic pitcher but he doesn’t do good with multiple innings….

  • Kozo

    The rumour that has been floated in the papers is that the Swallows are interested in re-signing Barnette.

    • Kozo

      It’s official! Tony Barnette was re-signed to a 1 year contract with a club option for a second year. Barnette’s new contract has a base salary of 25M yen, and has undisclosed incentives.