Reports were largely positive last winter when the Oakland Athletics signed Hiroyuki Nakajima. The 30 year old infielder carried some questions about his defensive range, but most figured that he’d hit enough to justify giving him playing time in the long run. Oakland was positive that they’d found a potential solution to their problems in the middle infield. Somewhere along the way that plan fell apart and Nakajima has spent the entirety of the 2013 season with the team’s Triple-A affiliate.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported late Friday night that the team has outrighted Nakajima off their 40-man roster. He’ll remain at Triple-A for the rest of the season. Slusser speculates that it could be by design to create room on the team’s 40-man roster, though she doesn’t appear clear who might be added in his place.
Nakajima signed a two year, $6.5 Million deal this past winter to join the A’s. The deal contains a team option for a third year at $5.5 Million. He’d just come off a season in which he hit .311/.382/.451 in Japan before reaching free agency and the belief was that he’d be able to transition to the Major Leagues with relative ease at the plate. He reportedly had multiple offers to remain in Japan, but elected to take the A’s opportunity instead. Nakajima’s spent the full season down in Triple-A, where he’s hit .282/.336/.368 in 324 PA. The team had him working at multiple infield positions, presumably to offer depth across multiple positions but he’d been primarily a shortstop throughout most of his Japanese career.
Oakland could add him back onto their 40-man roster at some point, but it’s curious that they’d make such a move at this point in time – particularly without a clear indication regarding who’ll be placed on the extended roster to take his place. Given the team’s needs in the infield this season, it’s clear that something changed about their internal opinion of Nakajima considering they failed to give him any opportunities with the Major League club this season.