As expected, the New York Yankees struck out in their pursuit of Hiroyuki Nakajima, announcing on Thursday that they had failed to reach an agreement with the 29-year-old Japanese shortstop whom they had won the bidding rights to with a $2 million posting fee.
"We unfortunately could not come to an agreement with Hiroyuki," general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement released by the club. "We wish him the best of luck during the upcoming 2012 season."
The Yankees won the right to negotiate exclusively with Nakajima on Dec. 6, but having failed to sign him to a contract within the 30-day time limit, now will have the $2 million posting fee returned to them.
The failure to sign Nakajima was hardly a surprise. Nakajima, a career .310 hitter in five seasons with the Seibu Lions of the Japan Pacific League, could only hope for a part-time role with the Yankees, who were said to be offering in the neighborhood of $2 million a year for his services as a backup to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
Earlier this week, Yankees sources expressed pessimism to ESPNNewYork.com about the offer, noting that Nakajima was not only an everyday player in Japan but also the captain of the Seibu Lions, and would be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2012 season and thus be free to seek a full-time job with any of the 30 major league teams.
The end of the Yankees' pursuit of Nakajima probably means the beginning of a new pursuit of Eric Chavez, who made the Yankees as a backup infielder out of spring training last year but played in just 58 games due to a broken foot and other injuries.
He batted .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs, and Cashman has said he was happy with Chavez's performance last year and would be interested in bringing the 34-year-old third baseman back in a similar role for 2012.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.