If Susan Slusser is correct, it appears Hideki Okajima is in fact nearing a deal to join the Oakland Athletics bullpen. The rumors have been swirling since late January that there was some interest from the Athletics to bring the Japanese lefty into the fold, and I examined the possibility on January 31 (Check it out here). Billy Beane said immediately after the Jed Lowrie trade that the 25 man roster was set, which seemed to squash the rumors of signing Okajima. But I think we all should know better than to take Billy Beane at his word when it comes to the Athletics roster.
March 6, 2011; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Hideki Okajima (37) during a spring training exhibition game against the New York Mets at Digital Domain Park. The Mets defeated the Red Sox 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Of course nothing is official by any means, and until it is the A’s announce it nothing is set in stone. But the more I think about adding the experience of Okajima to the relatively young A’s bullpen the more I like it. Last night I looked at the ZiPs projections for the Athletics bullpen, and the addition of someone like Okajima seems like a good fit.
The theme for the Athletics this offseason hasn’t been making splashy moves and adding impact players, it has been keeping the core of what made them successful in 2012 intact, and fortifying it by adding quality players for depth. Aside from the addition of Chris Resop, the bullpen has been untouched. Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins will be secure in their roles without a doubt, but Jordan Norberto is far from guaranteed considering his injury history last year and general bouts with inconsistency.
Okajima would slot in as a lefty specialist primarily, holding left handed hitters to a .216/.277/.323 slash line throughout his career in the major leagues. If he can maintain that level of success against lefties he would undoubtedly be a welcome addition to the bullpen.
So as we eagerly await the first glimpses of the 2013 Athletics tomorrow as pitchers and catchers first report to camp, one eye will be kept on Billy Beane to see if he adds one last piece to the puzzle.