KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With the help of new manager Trey
Hillman's experience and contacts, the Kansas City Royals are
negotiating a multiyear deal with reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta.
Yabuta, a 34-year-old right-hander, pitched the last 12 years
for the Chiba Lotte Marines, a Pacific-League team managed by Bobby
Valentine. Hillman spent the past five seasons managing the Nippon
"Having Trey's expertise in the Japanese market is certainly
very helpful to us," Royals assistant general manager Dean Taylor
said Monday. "It may also be very helpful because there is some
familiarity that the Japanese players have with Trey. There is a
cultural change for the players coming to America and Trey has
lived in that culture for five years. We believe he could help
alleviate some of the concerns that Japanese players would very
Taylor said he did not expect a deal with Yabuta to be finalized
"We're still in negotiation. We're optimistic that we are going
to be able to get a deal done. We're not there yet," he said.
Yabuta was 4-6 last season with a 2.73 ERA and four saves in 58
games. At the World Baseball Classic before the 2006 season he
attracted attention by striking out Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and
Johnny Damon in an outing that lasted only 1 1/3 innings.
"There are still several details that we're working on,"
Taylor said. "The Thanksgiving holiday coming up somewhat
complicates things. But we're working and we're hopeful of being
able to finalize something."
Yabuta would be a candidate to be setup man for Joakim Soria,
who was signed out of the Mexican League last year and has shown
"We're looking at every market we can -- domestic and
international," Taylor said. "We're in a position where we will
not leave any stone unturned. We're going to be around the world."