The Season of Woes

By
Updated: September 19, 2019

The Season of Woes
September 3, 2029
Toyama Wind Dancers Blog

Following a hopeful end to the 2028 season and a reassuring start to 2029, things were looking up for the Wind Dancers. At the request of owner Dong-kyoon Yi, Toyama splashed some cash in the offseason retooling their roster in hope of becoming a competitive team. Now here we are in early September where the Wind Dancers have officially been knocked out of the playoffs, 29 games behind a wildcard spot. Playoffs weren’t necessarily the goal, as the team was aiming for just finishing with or close to a winning record. But struggles across the board have drained the hopes of the fanbase and have left many wondering how we got here.

Much of the anger has been focused on the extravagant owner Yi ad his “flip-flopping” with what the team should be achieving. Throughout the 4 losing seasons (now 5) since 2025, Yi has been adamant that this team didn’t need to rebuild and that they could bounce back to their 2023/24 form where they made the playoffs twice. But bloated contracts on injured players, regression, and a quick jump back to reality have resulted in nothing for that money spent. Lofty expectations of playoffs were never a reality. And finally, in 2029 after demanding signings in the offseason, Yi has come to terms that the team needs to rebuild. But after signing a few decent sized contracts, Toyama is locked in a situation where spending will be reduced in 2030 while STILL needing to pay for overpriced players. And now, rumors of the owner wanting to sell the team have been stirring, angering fans who think he is leaving the mess he created for someone else to clean up. Yi and his representatives have denied these claims before, more recently, choosing not to comment on the matter. Toyama’s problems have been well documented over the past few seasons, but where exactly did it go so wrong in 2029? After signing quality players, how did they fail to get anywhere close to their expectations? Were all of the moves bad?

Spending in the Offseason
Toyama entered 2029 with a fresh new look after moving or losing hefty contracts that had bogged down the budget. Clayton Lewis moved at the deadline in 2028, injury-prone Tadamasa Hashimoto’s contract expired, and an underperforming Ivan Rosa returned home to the San Juan Winter League. Those contracts freed up plenty of budget space to improve where needed in free agency.

Then the signings came rolling in one after the other. Some turned out okay, others have been complete failures. 2B Gabriel McIntyre has been a decent acquisition, despite a poor WAR (0.0), he’s hitting .253, is consistent on defense, and hasn’t caused issues in the locker room. His $5.5m contract is a bit overpriced, but not egregious. Closer Jo Kichida has been, as you would expect, great in the bullpen. His 3.31 ERA and 26 saves anchor a middle-of-the-pack bullpen and all for an affordable price of $4.5m.

But on the other side of that spectrum, you have SP Juan Cervantez who signed a 6-year $68m contract in the offseason after 3 solid seasons. While his walks and strikeouts are normal, Cervantez has turned into a BP machine giving up 1.5 HR/9 while sporting a 4.93 ERA and an 8-12 record. Meant to be a consistent, albeit unspectacular, rotation option, he has regressed to liability with just 9 quality starts. Joining Cervantez on the “Busts” list is 1B Ernesto Villalobos who has been even more disappointing. Villalobos was always a risk and luckily isn’t expensive, but the 35-year-old was brought it for his proven power over in the WIL. spending just 2 months with Toyama, Villalobos hit just .208 with 5 HRs before being dropped to AAA Yokohama where he has performed similarly.

Trades, Trades, and More Trades
Both in the offseason and around the trade deadline, Toyama made plenty of moves to bring in talents to try to address their glaring problems and later to gather pieces for their rebuild. None of these trades were complete failures and some turned into decent business. RP David Lopez was acquired from WV during the offseason and went on to have a great season. As the trade deadline approached, his expiring contract was dealt to Amsterdam for 2 solid A-level pitching prospects. Also joining from WV in the offseason was SP Jose Castillo, back-end rotation piece that has met expectations in Toyama. His 4.64 ERA doesn’t look great but with the current team situation, he is one of the best performing starters.

DH Lorenzo Gonzalez was acquired in June in desperation to improve the team. He cost Toyama a 3rd round pick to Bakersfield but has been a surprising bonus to the Wind Dancer’s offense. Gonzalez has been a positive influence in the locker room and, since joined Toyama, is hitting .284 with 34 RBI’s as the designated hitter. Around the same time, a trade with Shin Seiki brought in the talented 1B Armando Gandarilla and RF Shojiro Kotara. Gandarilla has taken some time to adjust but is hitting .233 since joining the Wind Dancers but has provided a much needed 11 HRs and 41 RBIs. Kotara has stepped into the “4th Outfielder” role and has even been competing with CF Okakura Ishikawa for the starting gig. Kotara knows GM Krupilis from his time in Hartford and is hitting a whopping .324 since the move.

Moving Forward
Whether or not the Wind Dancers are on the market will be the talk of the town for the foreseeable future and the team continues to play poorly. Despite having some solid talent in the ranks, Toyama will need to move salary and buy some time as their top prospects are a few seasons away. Could this be a fresh start of the Wind Dancers? Will long-time owner give in to the pressure and sell? We will all have to wait until the offseason to find out.