Catching up after the 2019 Maelstrom

By
Updated: May 9, 2014

Gary Trundleburry
Senior Evas Analyst
Shin Seiki Post

1/17/2020: Nagoya, Japan – Catching up after the 2019 Maelstrom.

Vail answers a call from GaryI just got back from a three hour sit down with Shin Seiki Evas GM Kevin Vail. We covered a huge swath of topics. There is a lot to get through in this article. I hardly know where to begin. I’ll just start typing and see where this goes.

It had been a long time since I have had the chance to sit down with Kevin Vail, over four months, in fact. Vail has been a little preoccupied for a while now because of little things like, salvaging the LRS and helping to guide it towards the eventual and inevitable merger with PEBA. So, it is understandable if he forgot about little old Gary. Why don’t I write an article without getting to interview the GM you ask? If I wanted to spew the same things everyone else already knows, I’d be OSA. Gross, right? Better to have higher standards.

The last time I had the chance to sit with Vail, the Evas were taking a moment to reminisce about Gonçalo ‘Streamline’ Doroteia. That was nice. The following months should have been full of more pleasant conversations celebrating awards, records and most importantly, the Evas’ glorious conquest of the LRS culminating with their third championship. The list of stories involving the 2019 Shin Seiki Evas should have been overwhelming. Here are a few, just off the top of my head:

Maybe I don’t have the pull I used to have in the Evas front office. But scoops were never my thing anyway. I’m an analyst, and that is enough for me.

That’s not enough for the Shin Seiki Post though. They need insight, leaks, rumors and the rest. That’s why we made a very exciting addition to our baseball staff: Tricia Takanawa! Readers will of course recognize her immediately as one of the preeminent reporters in the LRS with some of the best connections in Japan.  So please join me is welcoming her to our team. There should be plenty of dirt for he to dish on in the coming months.

That’s enough catching up and business. We have roster moves to discuss.  The Evas haven’t forgotten about the baseball side of things during the 2019-2020 off season. They have managed to pull off several moves to help fortify an already stacked roster.

The first big transactional event after the corruption bombshell was dropped on the LRS was the contraction draft. The purpose of that draft, unlike the amateur draft, was to divvy up the valuable of the contracted clubs relatively evenly amongst the remaining teams. The draft saw the Evas stick to script and add a number of solid arms.  The foundation of Eva power has long been solid pitching. The opportunity to add potential PEBA level arms in Takanobu Shirai,  Kazuo “The Domintor” Ishihara and Takejiro Daikawa was one they couldn’t pass up. Shirai in particular had been very highly coveted by the Evas for some time. Sources tell be he was resting firmly at #1 on both the Shin Seiki contraction draft board and on their 2019 amateur draft board. Guys like that are just not available in Free Agency.

Arms were the priority, but Vail did let it slip that catcher Yosuke Imai would have been the one hitter they couldn’t have passed up if they had the opportunity. Unfortunately, the Edo Battousai wisely snatched him up early in the draft.

Following quickly on the heels of the contraction draft was the Winter Meetings. Shin Seiki got four deals done there. The first saw them land star RF Yoritomo Masuda and $1.5M cash in exchange for minor league LF Shinzo Kiyomizu. Kiyomizu somehow slipped to the early 4th round in the 2019 draft, but quickly proved doubters wrong by putting up an impressive .297/.419/.856 line in Marduk. He was considered a rising star within the SS organization, but they couldn’t pass up the chance to add Masuda. Masuda is dominant when he manages to stay on the field, but he didn’t manage to do that much in 2019. He should fill in nicely for the injured RF Ogai Kato until his return. After that, I’d anticipate a lot of role sharing between LF/CF/RF/1B/DH to keep everyone rested and healthy.

The second deal was a quick sale of 21-year-old minor league reliever Shinobu Fujii, 22-year-old minor league reliever Takaaki Matsui and a 4th round draft pick to the Lupin Cliff Hangers for $800,000 in cash. That’s a very meager haul for parting with several the decent assets, but there was an urgent need to have some cash on hand (due to arcane LRS accounting rules) to keep all options open. If it’s any consolation, none of those guys look like they’ll pan out in the big pond of PEBA.  But who knows with prospects? They’re all scratch off tickets in the end.

Next they flipped Cuban born reliever Orlando Zavala for a 5th rounder. He was never going to be an impact player on the Evas, so getting a pick for him is fine. Hopefully adding some native born talent helps Edo thrive in their new home. They’ll need all the help they can get.

But they saved the biggest one for last. Vail shipped one of his best young arms, the near-ace Yujiro Kondo and 24-year-old minor league reliever Dave Coley to the newly Kierstead led Charleston Statesmen in exchange for one of the better 3B prospect in PEBA in Richard Kelly, a versatile young UIF in Gordon Stenger and $200,000 in cash.

The fact that there was yet another Vail-Kierstead trade should surprise no one. There have been rivers of talent flowing both ways between those two for years. The fact that Vail gave up a top young arm did take me slightly by surprise. But the move, like all other Eva decisions from now on, needs to be looked at from the point of view of PEBA. Judging by PEBA talent levels, Kondo and Coley are riskier than they would have been in the LRS. Both have cannons, but lack dominant control or movement, leaving them vulnerable to the long ball and walks. Because the talent level of hitters is much higher in PEBA, there was concern that stuff alone wouldn’t be enough.

On the other side, the Evas got some potentially useful PEBA level talent back. Stenger makes great contact consistently and is under club control for another 4 years. If he gets better protection, he should be a .300 hitter in PEBA. Combine that with a great glove and you have a clear upgrade over long time Eva infielder Mitsunari Yamada. Richard Kelly was the big prize though. Scouts say he projects to be a .300/.380/.900 type of player in PEBA with a serviceable glove at 3B. Securing PEBA production like that at 3B for six plus years in to the future would be a very big prize. It’s a gamble that could pay off handsomely. Look for Kelly to arrive in SS in 2021. When he does, we should expect further moves involving some of our veteran infielders. But, at this point, it’s far to early to venture a guess as to what they will or should be.

Even after all of that, the Evas still probably have a little something more up their sleeves as we start to set our eyes towards spring training. They have yet to dabble in the Free Agent market significantly. It’s hard to believe that would stand for the entire off season. They do have a few roster spots that could stand to be upgraded, though perhaps none important enough as to be worth what the current free agent asking prices.

Plus there is that whole new stadium thing looming on the horizon.  But I’m not going to touch that one. I’ll leave it to Tricia. I can’t stomach any more financial analysis, projections or speculation. At least once the damned merger is completed I won’t have to hear another debate about the reserve clause or minimum salaries for a while.

Soon enough this maelstrom of an off season will be over.  We’ll have new box scores to pour over and stats to analyze: actual baseball. Remember that?  I’ll take that over criminal investigations any day.