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Yoshihisa Hirano: Decision Time for Arizona Diamondbacks

Decision for Yoshihisa Hirano

The Arizona Diamondbacks have many decisions to make over the next few months as Free Agency begins and arbitration gets underway. They have several players eligible for arbitration and free agency. One player they must decide on is pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano, who had an up and down 2019 after a strong first season in a Diamondbacks uniform.

Coming Over from Japan

Before joining the Diamondbacks, Hirano spent the 11 seasons pitching in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League. Originally a starter, he was converted to a closer in 2009 and ended up with 156 career saves. He elected free agency in Japan in order to come and play in MLB.

Hirano’s debut season in MLB was impressive, teaming up with Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin as the team’s setup trio. He displayed a low-90s four-seam fastball and a splitter in the upper 80s to confuse hitters. Hirano finished the season with a 4-3 record in 75 appearances and posted a 2.44 ERA in 66 innings with three saves. He set the team record by not allowing a run in 27 consecutive games and even received some Rookie of the Year votes.

Disappointing Second Season

After a stellar 2018 season, Hirano’s 2019 season was certainly a disappointment. In 2019, Hirano was supposed to be the go-to reliever for the seventh inning, and perhaps even close out some games to offer another shutdown closer option. However, his performance changed dramatically from month to month over the remainder of the season.
Hirano’s season started off well with an April ERA of 3.12. However, May saw his ERA rise to 7.45. Though he had a great June and July, his era climbed to 8.53 in August. On August 17, he went on the injured list with elbow inflammation. With that, Hirano’s 2019 finished up with a 4.75 ERA.

Yoshihisa Hirano Contract Situation

With his two-year deal with the Diamondbacks up, on October 31 Hirano elected free agency. Any team can now reach out and sign him to a deal. The Diamondbacks would most likely not get any draft pick compensation if he decides to leave.

The Diamondbacks front office team has not yet made any noise about re-signing him. If they do reach out to him, it would most likely be a one-year deal with incentives added into the contract. While most expect him to be on a Major League roster by the time the 2020 season rolls around, no one knows if it will be in a Diamondbacks uniform.

New Pitching Coach Might Help

If the Diamondbacks do decide to sign Hirano, new pitching coach Matt Herges will have to figure out what happened to him. He’ll then have to work with him to get him back to his effective form. Herges will need to work with him on his game and his attacking the top of the zone with his fastball and the bottom of the zone with his splitter. Hirano needs to get back to being that ground-out pitcher form he was in 2018.

Bullpen Outlook

If the organization decides to move on from Hirano, who will be 36 in March, they still have a group of pitchers to handle the work. Plus, the team will have plenty of young arms to look at in Spring Training 2020. The question is whether to take a chance on Hirano returning to his competitive form or to look for other pitchers to take his place.

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