MLB Free Agents 2012: Yankees Will Regret Not Signing Hiroyuki Nakajima

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2012

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We have become so accustomed to the New York Yankees spending money that when they fail to get a player signed, it becomes a big deal that fans and analysts like to talk about. That is what has happened now that the team has failed to sign Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. 

According to the official Major League Baseball Twitter feed, the 30-day negotiating window that the Yankees had with Nakajima has expired.

While it is bad news that Nakajima will have to wait another year before playing in Major League Baseball, he will be going back to Japan to play this year and then become an unrestricted free agent who can sign with anyone next year. 

For the Yankees, this is a move that they will regret. As Wallace Matthews of wrote, this was not a surprise, because Nakajima would have been a bench player for them and he had no interest in doing that. 

Earlier this week, Yankees sources expressed pessimism to about the offer, noting that Nakajima was not only an everyday player in Japan but also the captain of the Seibu Lions, and would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2012 season and thus be free to seek a full-time job with any of the 30 major league teams.

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But this team is lacking depth on the left side of the infield right now. We know that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are going to be the starting shortstop and third baseman, but can you really depend on them to play in more than 130 games at this point in their careers?

It doesn't help that Jeter is basically a platoon player at this point, hitting just .277/.329/.338 against right-handed pitching last year. But because he is who he is, there is no way that the Yankees are going to sit him down against anyone. 

Nakajima might not have been the long-term answer that the Yankees needed at shortstop, but I doubt that he would have been much worse than Jeter against righties in 2011. 

If they could have found some way to guarantee him 450 plate appearances, which shouldn't be hard considering how old their team is, he would have been a good fit for them next season. 

Instead, they have to bank on Jeter getting better at age 37 and A-Rod playing in 140 games for the first time since 2007 without a real backup plan. 

Good luck.