What Is Hiroyuki Nakajima’s Future With The Oakland A’s?
When the Oakland A’s signed Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year, $6.5 million deal in December 2012, most assumed he would be a factor on Bob Melvin‘s team. However, Nakajima’s less-than-stellar spring numbers and a handful of injuries prevented him from making an appearance in an A’s uniform at any point during the season. He ended up playing in 90 games for the Triple-A Sacramento Rivercats posting a slash line of .283/.331/.367 in 346 ABs.
Considering the A’s paid him roughly $3.25 million to be a minor-leaguer in 2013, his signing has to have been considered a disappointment thus far. Of course, there is still one more year left on the deal, but will Nakajima have a role on the 2014 team?
As of right now, it’s anyone’s guess. The A’s look to enter the 2014 campaign with a middle infield made up of shortstop Jed Lowrie, second baseman Eric Sogard, along with utility infielders Alberto Callaspo and recently-signed veteran Nick Punto. That doesn’t seem to leave much room open for Nakajima to work his way onto the 25-man roster unless he has a particularly strong showing in spring training. Generally speaking, those that saw him play in Spring 2013 didn’t seem very impressed with his defense at any position. That’s obviously an area he could improve if he hopes to make the 2014 roster.
G.M. Billy Beane has made a flurry of roster adjustments over the past few weeks. Beane has brought in closer Jim Johnson, starter Scott Kazmir, reliever Luke Gregerson and speedy outfielder Craig Gentry. He also traded away starter Brett Anderson and lefty specialist Jerry Blevins. While the Winter Meetings are over, there is still a lot of time left for more roster-tweaking. Callaspo in particular has been seen as a potential trade option considering his 2014 salary of $4.875 million.
In 2013, Nakajima played three defensive positions: second base (19 games), third base (37 games) and shortstop (28 games) while also playing in nine games at the DH slot. Since Lowrie is considered the A’s full-time shortstop, Nakajima’s best chance of earning a role on next season’s team would be off the bench or backing up Lowrie or third baseman Josh Donaldson.
All of this could be a moot point if Nakajima has another unimpressive spring training. In which case, his two-year contract will have to be seen as a regrettable decision.
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