Youkilis To Japan, Pill To Korea, Stubbs to Colorado

Two more first basemen are off the market, with both fleeing to Asia.

The Greek God of Walks, Kevin Youkilis, is heading to Japan to play for Rakuten. Reports suggest it’s a one-year deal for about $5M. It’s somewhat odd that the Mets executives are so big on taking pitches, getting on base, and hitting the ball over the fence, yet didn’t seem to ever show any interest in Youkilis. I realize he’s not the MVP candidate he once was, but one would think the Mets would at least kick the tires on someone who symbolizes their offensive ethos. (See what I did there?)

The San Francisco Giants have about 17 players who play first base and outfield, so perennial prospect Brett Pill has agreed to be sold to the KIA Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. Though he’s no Paul Sorrento, Pill has soul and will be appreciated by KIA for his crossover ability to hit righthanders and lefthanders. In all seriousness, Pill is another player that might’ve been an interesting option for the Mets, if not for their glut of first basemen. Pill spent the last four years mastering the PCL, but never had a true opportunity to play every day to prove himself in MLB. In AAA, he’s developed into a decent on-base guy with good power, and makes plenty of contact; he struck out only 54 times in 573 plate appearances in his last full season with Fresno (2011) while clubbing 25 homers. He swings from the right side and can also play a little bit of left field; in my mind, he might’ve been a potential platoon partner for Lucas Duda at 1B, while also getting some reps in one of the outfield corners.

In other news, Kurt Suzuki signed a one-year, $2.75M deal with the Twins. Suzuki presumably will take over as the full-time backstop so that Joe Mauer can move to first base. Mauer was shut down due to chronic concussion symptoms that began after an Ike Davis foul tip bounced off Mauer’s mask.

Lefthanded reliever Scott Downs received a one-year, $4M contract from the Chicago White Sox.

Another LOOGY, J.P. Howell, signed a two-year, $11.25M deal with the Dodgers. The price of a decent LOOGY is not going down.

Two trades also occurred recently.

The Royals get infielder Danny Valencia from the Orioles in return for outfielder David Lough. Valencia has showed some surprising pop, particularly against LHPs, both in his full-season 2011 audition and as a part-timer in Baltimore last year. Lough is another one of those speedy ballplayers that are valuable in large parks.

The Rockies acquired Drew Stubbs from the Indians in return for LHP Josh Outman. We discussed the possibility of Stubbs leaving Cleveland after the Tribe signed David Murphy. I know Stubbs strikes out frequently, but have always liked his athleticism, particularly his speed. He’d be a good fit for the cavernous outfield of The Park at Shea Bridge — offensively and defensively. But then again, Matt den Dekker (or Kirk Nieuwenhuis) may turn out to be a somewhat slower, less powerful version of Stubbs.

Ah, the bookends of this story go together, considering that part of a three-team blockbuster included the Cincinnati Reds trading Drew Stubbs to the Indians last year for Shin-Soo Choo. That deal — which occurred around this time last year — also included shortstop Didi Gregorious, who has drawn the interest of many in the Mets blogosphere.


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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies December 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm
    Speaking of international player movement, is there any reason at all why Tohoku would sell off their best and most popular player? I mean, can you imagine if the Dodgers took $20 mil and said goodbye to Clayton Kershaw? Tanaka has to be staying in Japan…

    That said, I’m not sure why other Japanese stars have been posted before free agency. Maybe Japanese fans don’t want to be able to see their best players except by replays of U.S. games, and will boycott any owner who denies them that privilege?

    Yeah, I don’t think so either.

    So what is it?

    • Joe Janish December 22, 2013 at 11:40 pm
      Perhaps they think it’s an even trade — Youkilis for Tanaka?

      Since I’m not familiar with the economics of NPB, my first guess is that it makes financial sense for a club to sell one of their players for $20M+. I’m also not familiar with how NPB and their fans view MLB — if they see MLB as truly the “best of the best” in the world, then perhaps it is honorable to allow one of their own the opportunity to prove themselves at the highest level. Further, it may be seen as a good thing for NPB when its “graduates” excel in MLB — it helps legitimize NPB as another “Major” league.

      Maybe there is a MetsToday reader living in Japan who can weigh in on this?

      • argonbunnies December 23, 2013 at 12:24 am
        My impression from talking to my friend in Tokyo is that, although Japanese fans are thrilled to see their guys do well in MLB, they hate the exodus of top talent. It seemed that NPB teams selling off stars was widely viewed as a problem of H. Wayne Huizenga proportions, and I was guessing that the changes to the posting system, in lowering the money teams could make that way, was an attempt at a solution.

        I guess I could see selling Kershaw, with 2 years left on his contract, for 60 million. But not 20. That’s why I assume Tanaka’s staying put.

        As an aside: NPB fans pack stadiums, cheer their teams like crazy, follow a 130-game season religiously, and delight in kicking butt at the WBC every few years. They do not need anyone to “legitimize” their league. The only thing they could seek is an equal talent level, but (a) that’s a pipe dream, and (b) losing your best guys achieves the opposite of that. (Not that I actually know much about what Japanese fans think; I’m just assuming they aren’t idiots.)

  2. argonbunnies December 23, 2013 at 12:31 am
    As long as I’m ranting about Tanaka, I might as well mention that if the Mets have one opportunity in the next few years’ road to contention to acquire a young superstar, Tanaka is probably it. Breaking the bank on a pitcher who’s never worked on a 5-day schedule with an American strike zone sounds insane, but, y’know, just sayin’…
    • Joe Janish December 23, 2013 at 2:20 am
      I agree, and have been holding on to a “Mets need to bid on Tanaka” post until we find out for sure whether he’ll actually be posted.

      They weren’t in on Aroldis Chapman, Puig, Cespedes, Darvish, or any other impact import … why should we believe they’d be in on Tanaka? Meh.