Shocking news from across the ocean. Several sources, including a league representative, have confirmed that the Kansas City Royals have their sights set on acquiring Takashi Toritani.
“The Royals have been scouting him for some time now. He can play any infield position and never gets hurt.”
Since the season opener, Royals scouts have been watching his moves carefully, attending several dozen games. They praise his masterful bat control, his impressive .415 on-base percentage and his rock-solid defence.
As of August 31 (9/1 in Japan), the Royals have Infante and Escobar firmly set in the lineup at second and short, but incumbent third baseman Moustakas has struggled to secure the position. Looking ahead to next season, atop the team’s wish list is a player who can play multiple positions, namely 2B, 3B and short. Toritani matches the Royals’ needs, as he demonstrated at the 2013 WBC, playing not only shortstop, but also seeing duty at second and third. Sweetening the pot even more is the fact that Toritani’s Waseda University teammate, Norichika Aoki (32), is already on the team.
Toritani first acquired overseas free agent rights during the 2012 season. It’s been a well-known fact since his days at Waseda that Toritani has big league aspirations. He spent the last two off-seasons thinking deeply about whether to stay in Japan or try his luck in the majors. In the end he chose the former, but he has made his intentions to the team clear by signing a one-year contract last off-season.
Clearly the major league market demand for Japanese infielders has been scant up until now, and it might be difficult for an MLB team to make him a better offer than the Tigers. On the other hand, Toritani’s fascination with the possibility of playing in the major leagues also cannot be denied. No doubt he will be thinking this one through once the season is over.
He is one of few born and bred Tigers, and he’s been “batting third, at shortstop” for years. As a core building block of the team, the thought of him leaving puts a gaping hole in both the offence and defence. The team knows he desires to lead them to victory for the first time in 9 seasons, so they will wait until season’s end to start negotiations to keep him.
Will he stay with the team or move on to the majors? This off-season, all eyes will be on Toritani.