They Come and They Go, Part Two
The Cubs have reportedly signed Korean pitcher Chang-Yong Lim, who last pitched for the Yakult Swallows in Japan’s NPB, for a contract that can pay out as much as $5 million. Meanwhile, the Rakuten Golden Eagles have signed Andruw Jones, most recently of the New York Yankees, to a contract that with performance bonuses could amount to 300 million yen ($3.63 million).
Lim is the real deal. In five seasons in NPB (he also pitched 13 seasons in South Korea’s KBO), he recorded a 2.09 ERA and 128 saves. The knocks on him are that he turns 37 next June and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He’s definitely a risk for the Cubs, although it’s unclear how much of his contract is guaranteed, but he’s also potentially high reward.
Andruw Jones turns 36 in April, and he hit only .197 last year for the Yankees. However, he still hit with power (14 HRs in 269 plate appearances, and that’s what the Golden Eagles are paying him for. The Golden Eagles desperately need a power hitter, and they were willing to shell out (by the standards of an NPB small-market team) to get one.
If Jones stays healthy, I doubt he’ll hit much higher than .230 for the Golden Eagles, but I think it’s more likely than not he’ll challenge Willy Mo Pena, Dae Ho Lee, Sho Nakata and Takeya Nakamura for the Pacific League home run title.
It, of course, remains to be seen how Jones will adjust to playing in Japan. One thing I feel fairly certain about, however, is that Jones will appreciate Japan’s Baseball Annies. In the early 2000’s, when I had part of a season ticket package, those of us in the bleachers of Pac Bell Park (now AT&T Park) would chant “Gold Club” whenever Jones was playing center field for the Braves. [Here’s a link if you don’t remember the reference.] I’m sure he heard pretty much the same thing in all the other parks around the National League.