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Uchikawa Watch: Where to?

Discussion in the The SoftBank Source forum
Uchikawa Watch: Where to?
Free agent outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa met with the Hawks yesterday, with Sadaharu Oh and chief of player development Itaru Kobayashi being at the negotiating table as SoftBank's representatives.

Having Oh at the table has proven to be a boon for the Hawks in attracting free agents, as having him around might have wooed new catcher Toru Hosokawa and also the possible retention of Hitoshi Tamura.

That trend continued with the Uchikawa meeting, as he said, "I was really happy to see Sadaharu Oh [at the negotiations]. He told me there was nothing I needed to change and that the team needed me. Hearing something like that from such an important baseball figure made all my hard work worthwhile."

The BayStars' outfielder, who is the owner of a career .313 average, has three offers on the table: The Hawks' offer is their now-requisite four years, with the contract rumored to be worth up to 1.2 billion yen ($14.2 million) if all the incentives are met. He was also presented with the number 24, which was his number on the '09 WBC team.

The BayStars are looking to retain their best contact hitter, as they are also offering four years, and 1 billion yen ($11.9 million).

Surprise contenders are the normally-conservative Hiroshima Carp, and they are offering Uchikawa three years and 600 million yen ($7.1 million).

So where does Uchikawa go from here? He has been quoted as saying that he wants to thoroughly consider all three offers, and will likely have an answer in early December.

One would think that the Hawks are the front-runners, considering they have the most potential money on the table, and they seem to be the closest to a Japan Series championship. With Uchikawa and possibly Tamura and maybe even Alex Cabrera in the fold, it could mean the Hawks have a Murderer's Row of a lineup.

However, Uchikawa might have a soft spot for the BayStars, and it looks like he'll have more guaranteed money from Yokohama. Shuichi Murata elected to stay, and that could set a precedent for Uchikawa to do the same.

As for Hiroshima, they're the dark horses in this bidding war. The Carp don't normally go after free agents, which is a long-held club policy. Also, the money and years they're offering is not as much as the other two teams. Considering that they're almost in the same boat as Yokohama, consistently being at B-class, would he want to go there? He has another meeting with the Carp in the near future.

As a Hawks fan and writer, I would love to see Uchikawa come this way, but with all the money the Hawks are spending on hitters, the team seems to be forgetting that they need a right-handed pitcher. If Kenshin Kawakami does come back to Japan, would the Hawks have it in the budget to sign him, or any other potential righty? Are they too high on some of the kids in the system like Tatsumi?

At this point, all we can do is wait to see what Uchikawa does. It would be one heck of a Christmas present for the Hawks if Uchikawa did sign with SoftBank.
Re: Uchikawa Watch: Where to?
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Nov 27, 2010 11:21 PM | YBS Fan ]

Another thing going for the Hawks is that Uchikawa is originally from Oita Prefecture, adjacent to Fukuoka Prefecture on the northern side of Kyushu.

Under Daiei's leadership, the Hawks actively recruited a lot of the best Kyushu talent. This appeals to both the local fan base and gives the ball players a familiar home.

This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.

It is my sincere hope that once you learn a bit about what we're about here that you will join the community of contributors.

Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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