Things have quieted down for the Toronto Blue Jays, who made a huge splash earlier this winter but seemingly went on holiday break as we approach the new year. But that might change as soon as the calendar turns to 2015, as the Blue Jays are firmly in the mix to land their long-needed second baseman in the form of Japanese import Takashi Toritani.
According to Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star and earlier this week via Andrew Stoeten, both of whom cited Japanese newspaper reports, Toritani is expected to make a decision shortly after the new year in regards to where he’ll play in 2015. The Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres are both said to have made offers for the Japanese “Iron Man” to play in the Major Leagues, while the Hanshin Tigers are also a possibility if Toritani opts to return to Japan.
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Toritani turns 34 in June, so this may very well be the final opportunity he has to make the jump to Major League Baseball. However, his advanced age shouldn’t be a deterrent for MLB suitors either, as Toritani is as durable as the come. He holds the Japanese Central League record, having played in 1,444 consecutive games and has seemingly gotten better with age, as his stats will show.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that this sort of performance will translate well to Major League Baseball. Ichiro Suzuki, while a much better hitter in Japan than Toritani and also six years younger when making the jump to MLB, saw a significant power drop-off while playing for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees. That said, the Toronto Blue Jays won’t be looking for Toritani to provide power either, just a consistent bat at a position that has featured a revolving door since the 2011 season.
The commitment is said to be minimal, with a 1-2 year deal the most likely possibility with an average annual value close to $5-$6 million. That’s a fairly reasonable risk to take for the Blue Jays. The team could also sweeten the pot some by tagging some team options on to the deal that would protect the team if he makes the transition successfully.
Of course, the question will come down to what Toritani wants. Does he take the chance and make the jump to Major League Baseball? Does he want a chance to win with the Blue Jays over the ability to stick at shortstop with the San Diego Padres? Or will he look to put the final stamp on his legacy in Japan by finishing his career over there.
The answers may come very soon.