Deadline looming for Yankees, Nakajima

January, 2, 2012
The Yankees have until Friday to finalize a deal with Hiroyuki Nakajima, the Japanese shortstop on whom they won the bidding rights with a posting fee of $2 million. But sources tell me it is unlikely Nakajima will be playing in the Bronx in 2012, for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, the 29-year-old is the captain and everyday shortstop for the Seibu Lions. The best the Yankees could offer him is a bench role, using him as a sub SS-3B-2B, and the paycheck for that job is nowhere near what Nakajima is looking for.

For another, Nakajima will be a free-agent after next season and will be free to negotiate with any MLB team without having to deal with the restrictions of the Japanes posting system. He will also be free to seel himself to a team looking for a full-time shortstop, a role the Yankees will not have available until Derek Jeter's current contract runs out after the 2014 season.

Obviously, the Yankees are pessimistic about their chances of signing Nakajima, but their misfortune could be good news for Eric Chavez, who decided awhile ago that he would play again in 2012 but has languished on the free-agent market because of his age and injury history.

He also may be waiting on the Yankees, for whom he enjoyed playing in 2011. According to an insider, if the Yankees sign Nakajima, they would have no available bench slots for anyone other than Eduardo Nunez. (They signed Andruw Jones to a one-year deal to fill the backup outfielder slot last week). If they don't, then look for Chavez to also return for a repeat engagement in the Bronx this season.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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