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Japanese Paper: Pirates a Serious Player for Hisanori Takahashi

NPB Tracker has the story in English here, and here's a Google translation of the original story in the Japanese publication Sanspo. I don't know how to assess the credibility of the story, so take it with a grain of salt for now.

Anyway, Takahashi will be 35 at the start of the season. Here are his stats. If I understand the translation correctly, it sounds like the Pirates would be offering the same sort of minor-league deal they gave Masumi Kuwata in 2007. While this may not be saying much, though, Takahashi is probably a much better pitcher--Kuwata had been declining even in Japan before he signed with the Pirates, while Takahashi had an ERA below three last year. He does, however, allow a bunch of homers in Japan, which could become even more of a problem against major league pitching.

While there's no harm in giving a guy a minor league contract, I don't see a compelling to gum up the works unless the Pirates really believe they're getting someone good. The Bucs have four spots in their rotation set with Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm and Charlie Morton, a couple of options to sort through in Kevin Hart and Dan McCutchen, and a prospect who could be ready in June or so in Brad Lincoln. You can never have enough starting pitching, but the Pirates do have a fair amount, and I'd probably rather they just sorted through options like Hart, McCutchen and Lincoln unless they really believe that Takahashi can pitch very well.

If the report of the Pirates' interest in Takahashi is correct, then, I bet they're thinking of him more as a potential LOOGY (lefty one-out guy). With the additions of Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, D.J. Carrasco and Javier Lopez, the bullpen is a lot more crowded than it was a couple months ago, but Lopez is the only lefty so far who looks likely to earn a spot. (UPDATE: A couple of readers point out that Takahashi throws a screwball and doesn't have a great breaking ball, so LOOGYdom is unlikely. Lefties hit .300 against him last year.)

Above is some video of Takahashi pitching to former minor league slugger Craig Brazell. Unfortunately, Takahashi is pitching from the stretch. Has anyone here seen his windup? Is it conventional?

Thanks to WTM.