On Monday, the Chunichi Dragons traded 32-year-old infielder Toshiki Abe in exchange for 36-year-old starter Hideaki Wakui from the Golden Eagles, a puzzling move for Chunichi.
If you follow the NPB, you know that the number of transactions between teams is sparse, and largely inconsequential, with most deals being players from the backend of the roster switching teams based on depth needs.
This deal has two accomplished veterans being traded for one another, and on paper, it is one of the most lopsided deals I’ve seen, let’s break it all down and grade each side.
Rakuten Eagles: A–
The Eagles just pulled a legal armed robbery on the poor Dragons, somehow convincing Chunichi to give up their longtime 2B Toshiki Abe.
Abe was one of the few hitters that has found any success hitting in the Nagoya Dome, Abe slashed a very respectable .270/.338/.397 in 548 PAs for the Dragons, good for a 117 WRC+.
All they had to give up was Hideaki Wakui, a 36 year old starter who has seen better days, pitching just 56 innings to a respectable 3.54ERA.
This trade isn’t just great on a value standpoint, as Abe now allows for longtime star 2B Hideto Asamura to make his transition to 1B as he ages, completing a very solid infield.
Chunichi Dragons: D
I am not a fan of this move by the Dragons.
Having missed the playoffs the past 10 years mostly due to being consistently ranked as one of the worst hitting teams in Japan, some of it due to the very pitcher friendly Nagoya Dome, but mostly it is the refusal and ineptitude to develop and bring in quality hitters, and in this case retain the few they have.
Trading the likes of Abe, a reliable veteran hitter who finished with 3.4WAR, 3rd best on the team, for a washed starter in Wakui is borderline blasphemous.
The thought process to ship Abe likely revolved around opening a hole for young prospects SS/2B Ryuku Tsuchida (19) and 3B Takaya Ishikawa (21), while also giving more room for growth to the five infielders Chunichi selected in the 2022 NPB Draft, so it is an understandable decision, and it shows willingness to develop talent.
The decision to trade for Hideaki Wakui on the other hand, a 36 year old backend of the rotation pitcher when you already have one of the best rotations in NPB, is bad asset management in my opinion.
They should have looked instead for a young prospect to grow and develop, but they chose someone who posted 0.5WAR on 56 innings last year and there is doubt he can be better in 2023, after which it is likely that Wakui will retire, leaving the Dragons with nothing.