The Red Sox Junk is the Yankee’s Treasure


The New York Yankees have signed former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima to a minor league deal according to David Waldstein of the New York Times.  Thus proving that the old saying holds true, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

You may recall it was Okajima who was the odd man out when the Red Sox had to make the final cuts in their bullpen last spring before the start of the season.  After asking for a trade, Okajima spent most of last season in AAA Pawtucket.  Now, he gets a new lease on his major league career, this time with the Yankees, a team he used to pitch against.

The 36-year old Japanese native has spent all five of his MLB years with the Red Sox organization, despite only appearing in 7 games last year with the big club.  His career numbers are decent for a middle reliever, a 17-8 record, 3.11 ERA, a 1.246 WHIP and a 7.9 strikeout/9 innings in 246.1 career innings of work.

He is best known for his ability to shut down the big left handed bats and was an integral part of the Red Sox bullpen that led them to their second World Series title in a decade, back in 2007.  His career numbers against lefties are better than his overall numbers; a 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9, and 3.87 xFIP while working in 107 1/3 innings (courtesy of FanGraphs).

As mentioned, he drew the short straw with the Red Sox last season after what was a disappointing 2010 season that saw Okajima implode for career highs in ERA, WHIP and hits per nine innings.  His strikeout ratio was down while his walks per 9 innings was up.  It was a rough year for the left hander and after re-loading their bullpen last off season, Okajima was sent packing.

This situation is very similar to that of Alfredo Aceves and it ironically involves the same two teams, the Red Sox and Yankees.  After a disappointing 2010 season, the Yankees walked away from Aceves only to find a new home in Boston.  Aceves was arguably one of the best pitchers on the Red Sox staff last season and was deemed an invaluable find.  Obviously the Yankees are hoping they can capture that same type of lightning in a bottle with Okajima.

Last season in AAA Okajima put up some pretty good numbers.  Numbers that clearly caught the Yankees attention.  He worked in 51 innings, posting a 2.99 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, and 0.53 HR/9.  If he can keep the fastball down and regain his control then he may just turn into a buy low with a tremendous return on investment type of player.  His value out of the bullpen to tackle the tough left-handed outs will be determined in the first few months of the season.  Let’s all hope that he doesn’t have that success against his former club.

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