C.C. Lee was formally introduced as a Saitama Seibu Lion in Taipei City, Taiwan on November 29th. The Taiwanese pitcher spent his entire professional career in the Cleveland Indians organization before the Lions purchased his contract and reached an agreement last month.
Hisanobu Watanabe (Nabe-Q) was there to represent the Lions organization, as he currently works in the front office as a senior director. For the Americans who aren't familiar with him, he was a well-known player with the team before he became a coach and later manager. He won the Lions' last Japan Series title in 2008 and stepped down from the managing role in 2013. Nabe-Q has also been the Lions representative to pull the draft name out of the box in the event of lottery, notably Yusei Kikuchi as seen here.
This newscast from Taiwan provided a few soundbites in Mandarin with Nabe-Q being subtitled as he was speaking Japanese. Here's a translation of what they said. Thanks again to Vivien Wong for the translation help.
"Since beginning of the year, there were already been thoughts to go play somewhere else to learn different techniques. Of course family considerations is one of the reasons and also the chance to be playing in [big] games is a pretty big reason."
"[I hope to be] learning [the Japanese language and learning] the keywords for training. Then [I hope to know] how to order from a menu like what I did [in the USA]. Then [I'll learn] how to communicate with others. Those will be the starting points."
"If possible, we hope that he can take over the role of closer. [We] also hope that he will maintain good health for the whole year and help the team obtain winning [and] success."
While these quotes are pretty minor, the big takeaway is that Nabe-Q said C.C. Lee has a chance to be a closer for the Lions. The bullpen last year was uncertain when Tomoni Takahashi lost his touch. A full FIP study can be found here.
The Lions tried to replace Takahashi with Kazuhisa Makita, a role he once held in 2011. Eventually, Tatsushi Masuda was the closer at the end of the year, but there weren't many opportunities as the Lions would either be trailing or up by a lot of runs in the ninth.
Nabe-Q's words might have been said to butter up the Taiwanese media and crowd, but if we took this literally, it means the competition in the bullpen is wide open. Masuda is no doubt a lock to be part of the back end and Shota Takekuma is the useful lefty specialist, but everything else is up in the air.
Lee is capable of striking out batters, but has control issues with a higher walk rate as shown at any level of baseball he's played at. If Takahashi and Masuda take the ninth and eighth, we feel that Lee can be inserted in for the sixth and seventh innings. He will compete with Esmerling Vasquez for a roster spot among the foreigners.
-The Lions officially reached an agreement with Andy Van Hekken, who should be a middle of the rotation starter in 2016. He will make an estimated $1.1 million for the upcoming season.
-Yasuhiro Tanaka signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines. Previously, he was the mop up duty pitcher with a 1.35 ERA and a closer in ni-gun.
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