Left-handed-hitting SoftBank Hawks outfielder Oscar Colas has reportedly fled Cuba in order to pursue a career in MLB.
Colas is currently on the Hawks’ 70-man roster unlike fellow Cuban outfielders Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial, whose status is pending negotiations with Cuban authorities.
The slugger played in seven Pacific League games this season, homering in his first plate appearance on Aug. 18 in Fukuoka.
After failing to get any kind of memorable results in his first two minor league seasons with the Hawks, Colas slashed .302/.350/.516 last year in the WL, a notorious pitchers’ league. A left-handed pitcher, he did appear on the mound for the Hawks’ third team, where younger players compete against amateur sides — this is the level where first-year Hawks pitcher Carter Stewart Jr competed in 2019.
Colas becomes the third player to defect after signing a professional contract to play in Japan, following Yuli Gurriel, who played in 62 games for the DeNA BayStars. His brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was to join him in Yokohama for 2015, but neither reported and were eventually released.
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.
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.”
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.