One of the things I like to do with this blog is track information about what players, particularly former MLB-system players, get paid to play in Asia. There have been a bunch of recent signings which are instructive.
One of NPB’s rich teams, the SoftBank Hawks just signed former MLBer Diasuke Matsuzaka for what is most likely three years and 1.2 billion yen (just a little over $10 million in total). Whether or not this turns out to be a good deal for the Hawks depends almost entirely on how healthy Matsuzaka is the next three seasons. By the standards of Japanese baseball, this is a large commitment, although one I have little doubt the Hawks can afford.
The Hawks may also have signed Rick Van Den Hurk for two years and 400 million yen (approximately $3.3 million). Vanden Hurk pitched in South Korea’s KBO this past season, where he was one of the league’s top two pitchers. The 400 million yen deal, if accurate, reflects a hefty raise from what he made (or reasonably could make) in the KBO and considerably more than players coming out of the U.S. AAA leagues or the Mexican League get.
Wladimir Balentien, the best hitter in NPB at least when he’s healthy, will be making 300 million yen or $2.5 million. It will be the second year of a three-year deal which is turning out to be a bargain for the Yakult Swallows, although the team hasn’t been able to surround Balentien with enough talent to field even a .500 record.
The Swallows are a low revenue team that signed Balentien and Lastings Milledge to three- and two-year contract extensions before the 2013 season, but which didn’t kick in until after the 2013 season, in order to hold onto these players longer than they would otherwise have been able to. The Balentien deal was brilliant, but Milledge was missed more than half of the last two seasons’ total games to injuries, making the two multi-year extensions something of a wash.
Brad Eldred was re-signed by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp for a reported $915,000, which is not much when you consider that Eldred led all NPB hitters with 37 HRs in 2014 and the Carp set what I believe to be their all-time best attendance record at around 1.9 million. However, the Carp are notoriously cheap, and Eldred is an older player with not much game other than his ability to clout the long-ball.
The other top KBO pitcher this past season, Andy Van Hekken, just resigned with the Nexen Heroes for $700,000 and another $100,000 in performance bonuses, which seems like a pittance for the season he just had. The Heroes are apparently one of the poorest and/or cheapest teams in the KBO, and Van Hekken doesn’t have the same leverage as Van Den Hurk, who fled to NPB, because Van Hekken is five years older.
Meanwhile, KBO’s expansion NC Dinos re-signed their two best foreigners Eric Thames and Charlie Shirek for a cool $1 million each. These contracts seem much more reasonable given what I understand about KBO salaries and the fine 2014 seasons these two players had.