The Yankees have not been making big headlines during the winter meetings, but they made perhaps the most surprising move when they won the posting bid for a 29-year-old Japanese shortstop, Hiroyuki Nakajima.
Obviously, the Yankees do not intend for Nakajima to fight for the starting job at shortstop or second base, although he has been the starter for the Seibu Lions since 2004.
The Yankees see him as a utility infielder who can play short, third base and second base. They have until Jan. 6 to agree on a contract with Nakajima. If they fail to do so, he has to go back to Seibu. A member of the Lions since 2002, Nakajima took over for Kazuo Matsui when Matsui left Seibu to join the Mets in 2004. Nakajima is a career .300 hitter who has hit 20 home runs in three of the last four seasons.
There is some thought that Nakajima’s range is not good enough to play shortstop for an extended period should Derek Jeter get hurt, but Boston Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine, who managed against Nakajima with the Chiba Lotte Marines, said that was not necessarily so. “He has excellent range to his left,” Valentine said. “He’s a very good low-ball hitter and a real dedicated player.”