Photography: Jon Willey
Right around Christmastime, we learned that former D-backs infielder Rusty Ryal was being sold* to the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League. As it turns out, he won’t be the only former D-backs player to suit up in Japan this year.
Patrick Newman has a blog entry up at Fangraphs.com detailing the list of former Major League players who will see action in Japan, including three former D-backs: Ryal, Byung-Hyun Kim, Chad Tracy. Another Japan-bound player, Evan MacLane, played for the D-backs’ Triple-A Tucson club from 2007-09 but never actually played in a big league game with the team.
Here’s a quick glimpse at what each did in a D-backs uniform:
Tracy — 704 games, 2,587 plate appearances, .278 average, 79 home runs, 33 RBI… played on the 2007 club that won the NL West
Kim — 245 games, 325 2/3 innings pitched, 70 saves, 806 strikeouts… played on the 2001 World Series champions and pitched in the 2002 All-Star game
Ryal — 134 games, 290 plate appearances, .263 average, 6 home runs, 20 RBI… played five positions as a utility player for the D-backs the last two seasons
For all three, the move to Japan is probably a good one. Tracy had trouble staying healthy and finding playing time when he was healthy over the last couple years with the D-backs, Cubs and Marlins. Kim hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2007 and played for the Orange County Flyers in the independent Golden Baseball League last year. Ryal didn’t have a role with the D-backs in 2011 as the team signed utility players Geoff Blum and Willie Bloomquist this offseason.
Good luck to all three guys (as well as almost-former-Diamondbacks MacLane) and hopefully they can make the best of their experience in Japan. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to get to know Kim, he was traded about a month after I began working for the D-backs, but Tracy and Ryal are both classy guys, and I wish them well.
* While the term is that a team is selling a player, it’s up to the player. The way it works is a player chooses to sign a contract with a club in Japan. But if he isn’t a free agent, the Japanese club has to pay for his rights as a way of “trading” for him. Since Ryal was still under contract with the D-backs, that’s how it went down this offseason. It works essentially the same was as when a Major League team pays a posting fee to acquire a Japanese player, like when Daisuke Matsuzaka was “sold” to the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2007 season. Matsuzaka wasn’t a free agent in Japan, so Boston had to pay for the rights.
So when read that a player was “sold to a Japanese team,” don’t think that the guy woke up one morning to find out his team just dealt him to Japan. But if that could happen, it would probably look like this fantastic, elaborate prank the Phillies played on pitcher Kyle Kendrick in Spring Training in 2008.