Opening Day at the Tokyo Dome. - Koji Watanabe
The St. Louis Cardinals would be a perfect fit for Seibu Lions free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima, who failed to agree to a contract with the New York Yankees last season.
Granted: I'm going to root for the St. Louis Cardinals to sign all the Japanese free agents. It's a side effect of being unnervingly into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. But Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, an offense-first type who's a free agent a year after the New York Yankees won his posting rights but failed to sign him, is an excellent fit for the Cardinals' light-hitting, injury-prone middle infield.
Last year, in the midst of Japan's offensive drought—the Pacific League's average line was .252/.311/.348 in 2012—he hit .311/.381/.453, with 13 home runs and 29 doubles. (He was a fraction-of-a-hit away from the batting title.) 29 last year, his offensive peak (back before the deadball era) was 2008, when he hit .331/.410/.527 with 21 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 30 chances.
The question has always been whether he's a full-time shortstop defensively, which is not a problem for the Cardinals. Nakajima's role in St. Louis would be to play second base while Rafael Furcal was healthy; at shortstop he'd be the offensive backup, with likely utility infielder Ryan Jackson carrying the defensive side of the job. Basically he'd be Daniel Descalso, only he once hit 27 home runs in a season.
Major League translations are an art and a science, but the .270/.342/.412 MLB line Clay Davenport gets out of his NPB numbers would be a nice upgrade. Nakajima signed a one year deal worth $3.6 million with Seibu last year after the Yankees failed to sign him, following a posting bid of $2 million. Now he's a full-fledged free agent, and the Cardinals should really take a look.