Will Japanese Lefty Tsuyoshi Wada Become A Free Agent Today? Are The Washington Nationals Really Interested?

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 20: General Manager Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals talks to the media before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

He's not quite the proven 200.0 inning workhorse that can mentor the staff D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked about the Washington Nationals pursuing this winter, but Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is one pitcher whose name keeps coming up in discussions about the Nats' winter plans. MLB.com's Bill Ladson's sources have repeatedly told him the Nats have been watching Wada.

The Nationals' general manager himself told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore two weeks back that Wada was a pitcher the Nationals had "scouted extensively" and had interest in. The 30-going-on-31-year-old veteran of eight seasons with first the Daiei and then SoftBank Hawks, Wada finished what will likely be his final season in the Pacific League with a (16-5) record and a 1.51 ERA in 26 games in 2011. Wada, who had four shutouts and two complete games this season, had 40 walks (1.95 K/9) and 168 K's (8.19 K/9) in 184.2 IP for the eventual Japan Series winners from Fukuoka City.

After Dec. 1, keep your eye on left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada," MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote yesterday in an article entitled, "Nats head to Winter Meetings with to-do list." "The Nationals have scouted Wada 'a lot' this past season and 'the team considers him an option.'" Wada and the other Japanese free agents that become available this winter will be able to negotiate with MLB teams starting Thursday.

Wada does have some history of elbow injuries. He missed time in 2007-8 after surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow and the left-hander was limited to just 13 starts in 2009 while dealing with inflammation in his elbow. According to a March 2011 Japan Times' article by Jason Coskrey entitled, "Foreign hurlers face pivotal season after recovering from injuries", however, Wada, "... was back to his old self in 2010, winning the Pacific League MVP and Sawamura Awards after going 17-8 with a 3.14 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP."

ESPN.com's Keith Law wrote earlier this month in his "Buyers Guide" for free agent pitchers that Wada, "... doesn't project as more than a fifth starter in the U.S., if that." The ESPN.com writer said he'd probably go with a, "...harder-throwing import than a low-upside arm like Wada." NPB Tracker's Scouting Report on Wada predicted that the lefty, "... projects to be a solid 4th or 5th starter or (worst case) middle reliever in MLB." In a 2010 article FanGraphs.com, NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman described Wada as a pitcher, "who knows how to pitch," and has to because he doesn't have overpowering stuff. Wada, Mr. Newman writes, features an, "... arsenal of a 86-87 mph fastball, a good circle change, and a solid slider."

It's already Thursday in Japan and according to a Japan Times' article entitled, "Wada, Kawasaki plan MLB move", the left-hander will announce his decision to make the jump to MLB this afternoon. Can Wada be the left-handed long man in the bullpen for the Nats? Do you see Washington signing him to be part of the 2012 rotation?

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