Yankees Free Agent Target: Shunsuke Watanabe

Hong Wu

A 37-year old submarine pitcher wants to make the jump to Major League Baseball this season. As crazy as it sounds, the Yankees should go after Chiba Lotte Marines 13-year starter, Shunsuke Watanabe.

He has an absolutely abysmal 4.8 K/9, slipping below 3.0 in 2011 and 2012, however he also has a good 2.2 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, and 8.9 H/9 throughout his career. That last stat is a little misleading since it's gone over 10 in the last two seasons. A 1.23 WHIP also shows that, while he can limit walks, he allows plenty of base runners, which can't be good. Despite this, he's maintained a decent 3.65 ERA over his career, though it has risen over 4.00 in five of the last six years. He sounds like the American equivalent of a fifth starter, maybe. Plus he apparently tops out at around 70 mph. That's not good. So why should the Yankees even think anything of him?

Well, Watanabe apparently has one of the lowest release points in baseball. And it's mesmerizing.

A 70 mph fastball is not going to make it in MLB, but if he has this release and still can control the ball, it might be worth a shot to see if he can be effective out of the bullpen. No one is going to want him as a starter and no one is going to offer him much money, so the Yankees could comfortably offer him a take-it-or-leave-it league minimum contract with an invitation to spring training.

He doesn't have great numbers when compared to American players, but a funky delivery with deception can still be useful. In 2013 R.A Dickey's knuckleball averaged 75.8 mph, Pat Neshek's changeup averaged 70.2 mph. This is Watanabe' fastball. Chances are the better MLB players would absolutely slaughter him, but at best they get a decent reliever to plug into an uncertain bullpen.

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