The White Sox today signed Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi to a two-year contract worth between four and five million dollars (with an option for a third).
The Sox say they imported him for defense and speed. I'm not so sure it's a wise decision. Iguchi does look like one of the better fielding second baseman in Japan, and even though he had just 18 stolen bases last season, he had 42 the season before and 44 in 2001. In 2004 he also had 24 homers, 89 runs batted in, a .333 batting average, a .394 on-base percentage, a .549 slugging average. His career highs in those categories are 30 home runs (2001), 109 RBI (2003), .340 BA (2003), .438 OBP (2003), and .573 Slug (2003). That all sounds pretty good, eh? 2003 was his breakout year, but 2004 is not that far off the pace.
However, consider that he had 90 strikeouts and just 47 walks in 574 plate appearances in 2004. He has eclipsed 100 Ks in three seasons with a career high of 121 (against just 28 walks) in 1998.
Also, Iguchi just turned 30 last month, so as he learns the American League over the next two years, his skills will probably start to atrophy.
Finally, after the failure of Little Matsui last season with the Mets should make everyone wary of middle infield imports from Japan. Compare Iguchi's stats to Matsui's in Japan and tell me who looks like the better bet. Actually, his career wasn't much different from another Japanese import, outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who was an unqualified failure on this side of the Pacific and who returned to Japan last year after three remarkably sub-par seasons at the plate in the majors. And Shinjo was a year younger.
After acquiring A.J. Pierzynski, who according to thisSan Francisco Chronicle article takes things incredibly literally or is the most obnoxious player in the majors, the White Sox seem to be on a roll. I wonder why the Twins win this division each year.