Tag Archives: Yuki Yanagita

Another Hawk’s major dream bites the dust as Yanagita signs on for duration

For years Yuki Yanagita has made scouts wonder how much of an impact he could make in the majors when he was finally able to file for free agency and leave the SoftBank Hawks. On Wednesday we found out that the answer is nothing.

At a press conference, Yanagita, 31, announced a seven-year contract to stay with the Hawks. The Hawks will maintain his current salary of 570 million yen with additional performance incentives with salary boosts possible afterward depending on his numbers.

The deciding factor was a muscle tear behind one knee that saw him miss most of the 2019 season. He failed to make it back to the first team roster in time for the season to count as the eighth year of service time he needs to file for international free agency. Yanagita was deactivated on April 8 and didn’t play again until he reported no problems in his first farm team game on Aug. 8.

“I was able to swing like usual,” he said at the time. “I had no trouble running.”

There had been talk in early July of bringing him back in July as a DH so as not to put extra strain on the knee because he had been hitting in rehab. But at the time of the minor league start, the Hawks said Yanagita would need 10 games before being activated. Eventually, they settled on six games and 13 more days off the active roster.

13 days can be worth a year

Those 13 days, it turned out, were crucial to Yanagita’s future.

When the Hawks’ Pacific League season ended on Oct. 13 with the final day of the PL playoffs, Yanagita had amassed 135 of the 145 days needed to complete a year’s service time in 2019 and potentially file for free agency 11 months from now. He entered the year with 11 days he’d been carrying over since 2012, was on the roster for 64 days, and received the maximum of 60 days for players hurt in first-team games.

With that innocuous little delay, the Hawks, Japan’s most stubborn opponent of Japanese players moving abroad, were able to add an extra year of control. The Hawks are the only team in Japan that has yet to agree to post a single player, and now the club won’t have to deal with its best player leaving as a free agent.

That extra year and the extremely generous salary offer that was almost too good to turn down was enough to keep the best player of his generation in Japan for the rest of his career or at least until he’s 38.

According to the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association, Yanagita and his agent checked with the union about the shortfall. The union spoke to the Hawks and said the player and his agent were satisfied that the delay was not intentional.

My profile of Yanagita is HERE. Because of his extremely high peak value — he’s the only player other than Sadaharu Oh to lead his league in on-base percentage and slugging average in four consecutive seasons — I have Yanagita ranked as the 15th greatest player in NPB history.

The kotatsu league: Hawks poised to sign Balentien–report

A collection of Wladimir Balentien’s 2013 season home runs.

Hochi Shimbun reported Thursday that Wladimir Balentien was on the verge of an agreement with the SoftBank Hawks on a two-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $10 million. Because of his nine years of service, Balentien no longer counts against a team’s limit of four active foreign registered players.

The Hawks are three-time defending Japan Series champions. Despite missing their best power hitter, Yuki Yanagita, for most of the season and another slugger, Yurisbel Gracial, for over a month, they finished tied for the NPB lead in home runs with 183.

Here’s Balentien’s NPB page in English.

Fighters agree on contract terms with Villanueva

The Nippon Ham Fighters announced Thursday they have reached an agreement to sign third baseman Christian Villanueva, who was released by the Yomiuri Giants after one season.

In a comment released by the team, manager Hideki Kuriyama said, “I believe the addition of Villanueva perfectly dovetails with the Fighters principle needs this offseason. His results this season were not indicative of his real ability, and we believe we can assist him in making the jump. We’ve had our eye on him since he was in the majors, and the power is real. He’s also a reliable glove at third base and believe we can leave it in his hands.”

Here’s Villanueva’s NPB page.

The Giants signed Villanueva to provide power but he failed to do so at one of Japan’s best home run parks. He was benched from May 5 and did not show much more when given further trials in June and July. He was sent down to the farm for good in the middle of August and not recalled for the postseason.