A's looking to Japan for their next shortstop?

A's looking to Japan for their next shortstop?
December 17, 2012, 9:00 am
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Hiroyuki Nakajima hit .311 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, 52 walks, and a .382 on-base percentage in 2012 in the Japan Pacific League. (AP)

UPDATE at 3:10 p.m. -- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting the A's and shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima are close to an agreement. The A's have scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Tuesday. Stay logged on for more soon from Insider Casey Pratt. 

OAKLAND -- Another shortstop option is slipping away. Stephen Drew and the Red Sox have reportedly agreed to sign a one-year deal according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

Drew would have been a good fit in Oakland where the defending American League West Champions currently have a hole at shortstop. The A's met with Drew's agent Scott Boras several times and were interested in a short-term deal, which he eventually signed with Boston. The belief was that Drew could take a deal like this to prove he can have a full and productive season and potentially cash in next offseason.

Drew, 29, only played 79 games in 2012, and missed a total of 137 games with Arizona from July 21, 2011 through June 26 due to a fractured right ankle. After being acquired by the A's on August 20, he seemed to finally get back into the swing of things. He played solid defense and hit .250 with five homers, 16 RBI, and 18 walks in 39 games with the A's.

The deal is reportedly for $9.5 million, or $500,000 less than the A's could have had him for in 2013 with the mutual option on Drew's previous contract. That's a good chunk of change for a career .265 hitter that has only played more than 150 games once in his seven-year MLB career.

Let's explain the mutual option Drew and the A's had. If they decided to stay together in 2013, then Oakland would have paid Drew $10 million. The A's declined the mutual option and Drew became a free agent. Drew and his agent Scott Boras would have been wise to want to test free agency, and the A's were wise not to agree to pay Drew $10 million for a one-year deal. This gave the A's a chance to try and work on signing the shortstop to a multiyear contract at a more reasonable annual rate.

Drew was a good fit in Oakland because he was well-liked by manager Bob Melvin and bench coach Chip Hale. They both coached him when he was with Arizona. The familiarity Drew has with Melvin, Hale, and the A's returning roster seemed like it could have made Oakland an appealing destination, but money talks.

Any solution the A's turn to at shortstop will likely be a short-term option. The A's have 2012 first round pick Addison Russell in the farm system. He could possibly be ready to take over in a couple years.

Oakland has expressed interest in Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Seibu Lions' shortstop from the Japanese Pacific League is an intriguing option. He hit .311 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, 52 walks, and a .382 on-base percentage in 2012 in the Japan Pacific League. It is hard to project how those numbers would translate in Oakland. At the Winter Meetings in Nashville, A's manager Bob Melvin said of Nakajima, "He's a hitter, he looks like a hitter."

Initially it appeared the A's were confident in being able to bring back Drew. They traded Cliff Pennington -- who represented their best in-house plan -- to the Diamondbacks for outfielder Chris Young. Without Pennington, the A's internal options are limited.

On November 16, Oakland acquired infielder Andy Perrino from the Padres. Perrino, 27, played 26 games at shortstop for San Diego in 2012. The switch hitter provides some much needed depth for the A's infield. Adam Rosales played 15 games at shortstop last season, and Eric Sogard played 11 games there.

Grant Green could be an emergency option, but the organization made it pretty clear they don't consider his defense at shortstop adequate. They moved the first round pick to the outfield in 2011, and he played five different positions last season. He would have remained at shortstop if they thought he could succeed there.

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