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By now you've probably given up all hope for the Mariners (as well as for me) and find yourself simply asking: "Who exactly is Hiroyuki Nakajima and why should I care?"
Similar to Hisashi Iwakuma, Nakajima is a player who, following a failed contract negotiation during the posting process, returned to Japan with the hopes of becoming a free agent the following year.
However, it was around this time last year that I questioned whether the New York Mets, after losing Jose Reyes, should have pursued Nakajima as a replacement by stating:
Not to oversell Nakajima, but he is a smart, fundamentally sound ballplayer who hits to all fields, has a fair amount of power, and can cover a number of infield positions.
He is a seven-time All-Star and three-time Best Nine Winner, with two Gold Gloves and was a key cog on the 2009 World Baseball Classic winners, .364 while driving in seven runs.
Having seen him play for three years in Japan, I can firmly attest he is more than capable of being an everyday player in the U.S. and quite possibly a steal for a mere $2 million dollars to post.
Since then, Nakajima just went back to the Seibu Lions and led them to a playoff berth while narrowly missing out on the Pacific League batting title with a stat line of .312, 13, 74 in 136 games.
Perhaps that doesn't mean much, especially since the Mariners already have a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop in Brendan Ryan. However, I thought the same thing last year when the Mariners could have pursued Norichika Aoki to help in the outfield alongside Ichiro.
Instead, Aoki went to Milwaukee and hit .288/10/50 with 81 runs scored and 30 stolen bases.
"But didn't Tsuyoshi Nishioka flame out with the Twins?"
"And wasn't Munenori Kawasaki just released by the M's?"
Yes, but like a lot of things in life, there are no guarantees here.
The reasons that I have Nakajima listed here are twofold.
One, I actually think he can play an important role in what the Mariners are trying to do in 2013 by helping out on the left side of the infield, especially if Brendan Ryan still can't hit or stay healthy, Carlos Triunfel or Nick Franklin stays in the minors, or if either Dustin Ackley or Kyle Seager struggles.
Similar to Mike Napoli, Nakajima provides the M's some flexibility if one of the players in question fails. Plus, a three-year contract for $9 million, which would equate to $3 million per year, would still have the Mariners roughly in budget with last year (give or take a million), based on the prior deals for Hisashi Iwakuma, Oliver Perez, Grady Sizemore and Napoli.
But the point I really want to drive home goes beyond Nakajima.
Perhaps more than any other organization in baseball, the Mariners and their fans understand that Japanese players can succeed on the other side of the Pacific playing in America.
For an organization in desperate need of finding talent while struggling to compete against the big spenders in baseball, the M's need to continue their efforts scouting players from Japan, along with other markets throughout the globe.
It's good to see the organization committing resources to a new baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, but tangible results from that endeavor will likely take years to have any effect on the field in Seattle.
Honestly, I'm not sure the current front office has time to wait on that project, as the team needs talent ready to play now.
Don't get me wrong. For every Ichiro, there is at least one Mune Kawasaki. But hopefully Zduriencik and his scouts can keep an eye on a country where quality major league players still exist and could be signed for a reasonable price, as we saw last year with Iwakuma.
While it's a shame that Japanese positional players in recent years have earned a bad rap, let's not forget that Japan won both World Baseball Championships with more than just solid pitching.
Instead, let's see if the Mariners can turn a cultural misconception into an advantage by at least talking to players like Nakajima, and perhaps at the same time avoid throwing too much money at MLB players that are either too old, too frail or just plain incapable of making a difference in Seattle.